This season has been ground-breaking. The Youth Radar has dedicated itself to covering all of Europe’s top elite youth leagues. It is the only English-language website (I believe) that covers the leagues in such detail and as these competitions reach their climax, 2014 is set to be a hugely exciting year for the website and all its fans. Take a look at our mid-season review to see how your favourite club is getting on in their respective youth league and decide who you think will triumph in each competition in 2014.
Last season’s overall champions Fulham have kept their feet on the gas and stand top of the southern division at this mid-season break. Highlights for them included a 4-2 win against Arsenal and a well-fought 2-2 draw against rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who sit narrowly behind them at the head of the table. Spurs maintained a 100% record until gameweek 8, when they lost 3-2 to West Ham United.
In the northern division, Manchester City sit top and have been in as equally exciting scoring form as their senior counterparts. The under-18 side have netted 47 times in 16 games this season and head into the mid-season break on a run of 8 consecutive wins, including a 4-1 thrashing of second-place Everton and a 6-0 away win at Newcastle United.
Fulham striker Moussa Dembélé has arguably been player of the season in this league so far. Not to be confused with the former Fulham player of the same name, Dembélé’s goals have been vital to the Cottager’s dominance in the southern section. He has also played for the U21 side on a number of occasions and has found himself among the substitutes in Fulham’s senior side, a place which he may be occupying much more frequently if his form continues.
Last season’s champions VFL Wolfsburg went on an amazing 11-match winning streak to cement their status as one of the most successful academies in German football. When they were halted in week 12 by Werder Bremen, their status at the top of the league still seemed untouchable but their second consecutive defeat away at Hertha BSC a week later prompted cause for concern. An 8-2 thrashing of Union Berlin was a big relief before the winter break to keep them seven points clear of Hertha in second place.
Leverkusen are the only unbeaten team throughout the three regional groups. They lead their western group by seven points. With their UEFA Youth League commitments now out of the way, they should flourish in the second half of the season and be able to recreate moments like their impressive win against Schalke.
Maximillian Wagener has been a shining light of Leverkusen’s side but the player of the year so far has to be Wolfsburg’s Federico Palacios Martinez. The 18-year-old centre forward has been in unstoppable form this season, scoring 29 times in 14 matches, and should be called up to the first-team if he continues his incredible goals per game ratio.
The most entertaining division in Italy’s top U19 league this season has been Group C where Lazio, Fiorentina and Roma all sit at the top of the division with just two points separating the three. In November, the Derby Della Capitale went Lazio’s way as they beat Roma 2-1 away from home and Lazio haven’t looked back since. They’ve took 22 points from a possible 24 since that derby win, beating Fiorentina 2-0 along the way, which surrendered La Viola’s reign at the top. Torino and Atalanta sit top of Group A and B respectively, both with unbeaten records to their name.
Key dates in 2014
31/01/14 Fiorentina v Roma
07/03/14 Lazio v Roma
04/04/14 Lazio v Fiorentina
The biggest battle in France’s top youth league is between Lille OSC and Paris St Germain at the top of Group A. PSG are keen to replicate last season’s form and qualify for the final series while Lille will fancy their chances of knocking last year’s divisional champions off their perch. So far Lille have the upper hand and haven’t lost since late September. Their winning run included a 3-1 win against PSG in November – a game which saw an unfortunate turn in form for the Parisiens. They went on to lose the Paris derby a month later, but luckily qualified for the UEFA Youth League second round, of which could be a main focus for them if they fall even further behind Lille in the domestic title chase.
Monaco have surprised a few people this year as they have endured some miserable results in Group D. Last season’s overall champions sit 9th, having lost eight games out of their 15 played so far this season. After losing their opening game against Montpellier, they looked to have their season back on track when they went on a three-game winning run, including a 6-1 win against Clermont, in September. But results have just got worse and worse for Les Rouge et Les Blanc, epitomized by a 5-2 thrashing by Nice at the start of the month.
Hibernian, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Rangers lead the way in the Scottish Under 20 Premier League as they are all tied on 28 points at the top. Celtic sit in a disappointing 7th position but have three games in hand on the top three and sit just five points behind. Many postponements mean that Celtic have only played one of the top three so far this season, that was a 3-1 defeat against Inverness earlier this month. The first Old Firm Derby of the season is scheduled for 31st March 2014.
Juniores U19 (Portugal)
With just four matches to go until the Championship Round commences, Porto have already secured their status in the next stage of the competition, winning their northern division in the process. Sporting have qualified from the southern division and Benfica are just one point away from doing the same. Last season’s Championship Round was won by Benfica, with Porto coming runners-up, but this season Sporting seem much stronger and could pose more of a challenge than last year when they finished five points behind the champions.
At the halfway stage, PSV sit top of the bunch in Holland’s U19 league. They are five points ahead of Ajax but the Amsterdam club do have two games in hand and have only lost once so far this season. That defeat was against last season’s champions Feyenoord, who have found this campaign difficult and sit in sixth place – 12 points behind PSV.