AcademyWhy the UEFA Youth League is so beneficial for LFC's U19s

By Steve Hunter


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Barry Lewtas is hoping his U19s can embrace the challenge of playing in the UEFA Youth League once again and showcase their undoubted ability, when they face Napoli in their opening group game on Wednesday afternoon.

The U21s head coach will take charge of the team in Europe this term, with U18s boss Marc Bridge-Wilkinson assisting him.

Last season, the young Reds reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League before being beaten by Juventus.

The competition mirrors the first team, with games to come against AFC Ajax and Glasgow Rangers, and the group winners are assured of a place in the last 16.

Wednesday’s game kicks off at 1pm BST and you can watch it live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO.

Read on as Lewtas looks ahead to the opening test away at Napoli…

On the trip to Italy and the resumption of the UEFA Youth League…

It’s a great competition for the players and it’s also a great competition for the staff as well. It’s a really good learning experience for everyone. I have been very fortunate to have been involved in quite a few campaigns now in the UEFA Youth League and it’s very exciting. The players are as well, we did well in the competition last season reaching the quarter-finals, and we want to do well in it again.

On some interesting games with Napoli in this competition in the past…

The previous two times I took the team we played Napoli in the group, and it was always the tough game. We played very well on home turf, but away from home it was tough, and we had to dig deep. We are really pleased with the opportunity this has given us and we have some great games to look forward to against Napoli, Ajax and Rangers. Three fantastic ties and we are really looking forward to it.

On how valuable it is for the young players to play in the UEFA Youth League…

It’s brilliant, the whole experience of it. Some of the new players won’t have played in this competition before, so it will be their first experience of travelling away with us and representing the football club. The game is the most important bit first and foremost, but in terms of preparation for this game it is different to what the lads are normally used to. We are excited to be in it, we also get to go to all six first-team group games home and away and that is a real plus for the boys as well.

On the challenges faced by his young team playing away from home in Europe…

Away games are tough, you have to get used to playing on different surfaces you are not used to and some teams use artificial surfaces. We need to understand how difficult it is to go away from home in this competition, put our style into the game and obviously try to strive to get the three points. They are never easy these games but we are really excited and looking forward to the challenge.

U21s highlights: Liverpool 2-2 Manchester United

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On the encouraging recent form and Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United in Premier League 2…

It was a really good game. Two good teams, two clear styles in the way we wanted to play the game and intensity high from both teams. We went 1-0 up and I was then disappointed with the little spell early in the second half when we conceded two, but I thought character-wise we played our way back into the game and deservedly got back into it. We had chances to win it and there were a lot of positives to take from the performance.

On his young players having a positive mindset after a good start to the campaign…

I’m really pleased with lots of our game at the moment and the real beauty is we have got some boys really performing well. The atmosphere in training has been great in terms of how the boys are responding to what we want from them. We are seeing that in the performances. We know that there’s certain parts of our game we want to get better at, players and staff, and we are all on the same page with that. I’m really happy with where we are at. We have had a number of boys going out on loan because the next step for them is senior football. Converting some of these draws into more wins will become important for us as the season goes on but at the moment there’s a lot to be pleased about.



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