Barcelona’s Youth Team showcased its prowess in Belgium with a convincing 0-3 victory over Royal Antwerp, fulfilling its part of the bargain to secure the second spot in the group. However, the path to the knockout stage in the Youth League is not straightforward, courtesy of Porto’s triumph against Shakhtar Donetsk (2-0). The playoff looms, and on Tuesday’s draw (12 p.m.), potential rivals from a pool including AZ Alkmaar, Basel, Mainz, Nantes, Olympiacos, Partizan, Zilina, and Midtjylländ will be revealed.
Responding to the absence of key players like Héctor Fort, Pau Cubarsí, Ángel Alarcón, and Marc Guiu, who were called up to the senior squad by Xavi, the team under Òscar López displayed expected dominance against Royal Antwerp who were yet to secure any points in Group H.
Barça’s journey in Amberes marked their second-place finish in the group, and despite their triumph, Porto’s victory means they cannot evade the Youth League playoff.
Youthful Dominance on Display:
Coming from a 2-2 draw against Espanyol, Barcelona’s Youth Team exerted early dominance without much exertion. The disparity in quality between the two sides was evident from the outset. Hugo Alba, displaying finesse, opened the scoring just past the quarter-hour mark.
A pass from Bernal found Alba in space, and the young striker adeptly finished with his left foot, leaving Devalckeneer with no chance. Dani Rodríguez added to the lead before the half-hour mark, unleashing a powerful free-kick that deceived the local goalkeeper with its swerve.
With the match nearly settled, Barça eased off, conserving energy without ever feeling their lead was in jeopardy. Amberes struggled to mount a response, and Barcelona continued to create chances, with Marc Bernal, Dani Rodríguez, and Juan Hernández all testing the opposition.
In the 94th minute, Juan Hernández, assisted by Gistau, capped off the victory, further enhancing Barcelona’s goal difference.
Youth League Playoff Picture:
While Barcelona’s Youth Team demonstrated commendable performance, the Youth League playoff looms, adding a layer of uncertainty to their journey in the pursuit of octavos de final.
In the broader context of the Youth League, Real Madrid has already secured a spot in the octavos as the group leader. Meanwhile, Atlético and Sevilla find themselves gearing up for the playoff, while the Real Sociedad, at the bottom of their group, bids farewell to the competition.
In the dynamic landscape of youth football, Barcelona’s journey, though temporarily stalled by the looming playoff, remains a testament to the promising talent within the club. As the Youth Team awaits its next challenge, the anticipation of octavos de final continues to fuel the enthusiasm of the young Blaugrana.