RANGERS Development Squad face a tough test when they line up against Benfica in Lisbon on Monday morning.
Benfica, who are recognised as having one of the best academies in the world, having generated more than 200 million in Academy player sales in the last 5 years, were in the final of last years UEFA Youth Champions League, losing narrowly to Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 in the final, having beat Real Madrid 4-2 in the semi final.
In the earlier rounds Benfica knocked our PSV and CSKA Moscow having won through a group containing Dynamo Kiev, Napoli and Besiktas.
Benfica are one of Europe’s best Academy teams and it will be a fantastic challenge for the young bears against some of Europe’s finest young players and exactly why the Light Blues decided on this innovative approach to developing our best young Scottish talent.
The young Rangers team do however have a great record away from home this season beating Club Brugge, Brentford ‘B’ and KV Mechelen whilst also having drawn with Wolves under-23’s, Feyenoord, Manchester City and AZ Alkmaar. The only defeat in the eight away games so far having been away to PSV’s ‘B’ team.
The travelling Rangers squad, which will again be managed in the absence of Graeme Murty by Academy coaches Billy Kirkwood, Peter Lovenkrands and Head of Academy, Craig Mulholland, is as follows:
McAdams, Wright, Bradley, Houston, Mayo, Wilson, Shiels, Thomson, Thompson, Kelly, Palmer, Zata, Dallas, Rudden, Atakayi, Butterworth, Kennedy, Mebude
The great performances from the Academy under-17’s so far this season has been recognised by the inclusion of Dapo Mebude and Zak Butterworth who are part of the group for a second time in a week, whilst Kia Kennedy, an under-16, also makes his first trip with the Development Squad. With eight under-18s in the group it is a very young, but exciting, squad who will face Benfica.
Jordan Houston and Jack Thomson make a welcome return from long term injury and although their playing time will be restricted as they make their come back, it will be a boost to have two players who despite still only being 17, have already featured on the first team bench rejoin the group.
The group are still missing a number of key players who will unfortunately miss out with Myles Beerman, Liam Burt, Ross Lyon, Scott Gray and Rhys Breen all miss out through injury.
Ross McCrorie, Jamie Barjonas and Ryan Hardie all miss the trip as they are will all be with the first team ahead of the game this midweek against Aberdeen; while Robby McCrorie, Grant Nelson and Michael Hewitt miss out as a result of commitments at their loan clubs.
The young lads will be looking to build on an impressive recent run in their last four games where they have scored 15 goals against Man Utd 23’s (2-2); KV Mechelen (4-2 win); Berwick Rangers 1st team (4-0 win); Patrick Thistle (SFA Youth Cup, 5-2 win).
The match kicks off in Lisbon at 10.30am tomorrow morning.