Today will mark a special day for Atlético Madrid’s academy players. For the first time, they will be playing in the Metropolitano stadium, home of the first team, where they will host Genk in the UEFA Youth League round of 16.
Having reached the Final Four last year and qualified first in their group with 15 points from six games, the team of young talents will be looking to make a deep run into the competition once again.
Marca interviewed four players ahead of the game on Wednesday.
Alejandro Iturbe has been a goalkeeper to watch for a long time, and has appeared in first-team training sessions at Diego Simeone’s request on various occasions.
The 19-year-old, aiming to succeed Jan Oblak, confidently analysed the game. “We will take this as a good challenge and an opportunity to keep on demonstrating how Atleti can go far in European competitions.
Ilias Kostis, hailing from Thessaloniki in Greece, joined Los Colchoneros in 2019 where he forms an integral part of the centre-back pairing.
“We’ve learnt a lot because we’ve played in difficult stadiums before. We’ve grown as a team and those of us who have the experience will be ready to make a new story this year,” stated Kostis, referencing the previous victory over Dortmund U-19 at Signal Iduna park.
A veteran of the Youth League, Aitor Gismera will be playing his 17th game in the competition, placing him as one of the top ten Rojiblancos with the most matches.
“I’ve been at Atleti for ten years and have always been looking forward to playing where the older players do. It’s a great opportunity for us to have a game at the Metropolitano which is where we see our idols play,” confessed the 19-year-old midfielder.
Abde Raihani is one of the team’s most important attackers, next to the currently unstoppable Adrián Niño. With three goals and two assists (both to Niño) so far in the competition, Abde will have Genk’s defense on full alert.
On his relationship with his strike partner, Abde answered: “We understand each other very well, we work on this in training and in games, and we’re having a great season as a result.”
The young talents will be looking to not only leave their mark on the competition, but to impress the first-team staff. Pablo Barrios, now regularly seen in Simeone’s starting lineup, caught everyone’s eyes in the Youth League and set an impressive precedent to follow.
Nicolás Antúnez de Mayolo | GSFN