Seven games, seven wins – the Real Madrid youngsters do not have a blemish on their international record this term. The capital club's youngsters beat AS Roma, Viktoria Plzen and CSKA Moscow twice each in the group stage before eliminating their cross-city rivals Atlético Madrid in the Round of 16. In the big moments on the European stage, they have been equal to the challenge.
In their domestic league, the División de Honor Juvenil de Fútbol, however, Real Madrid have been playing second fiddle to Atlético Madrid for a while now. Their cross-city rivals beat them to the Spanish A-Youth title last summer and defeated them in the cup final too. It's been a similar story again this term, with second-placed Real trailing Los Rojiblancos at the top. And Real can only be sure of qualifying for the quarter-final of the Spanish Championship if they finish top of the pool.
So the Round of 16 success against Atlético was a much-needed boost. Even if their rivals did have upper hand statistically (11-1 corners, 12-5 shots), it was Real who emerged 2-1 victors at the end of a tense match in which there were 10 bookings and two red cards. The Whites took the lead in the first half through left-back Fran García, only to be pegged back to 1-1 on the 50-minute mark. But then, six minutes later, the Spain U19 international Alberto Fernández scored his fourth goal of the Youth League campaign to re-establish the lead for his side and secure a quarter-final meeting with Hoffenheim.
Zidane's son part of the squad
But Alberto Fernández is not the top goalscorer for the Real Madrid U19s, whose current boss Dani Poyatos replaced club legend Guti as head coach last summer. The man who has posed the biggest goal threat is Brazilian striker Rodrigo, who left his homeland for Real last summer for a reported fee of €4.15 million. The 18-year-old has found the net six times in his seven Youth League matches this term, a tally only surpassed in the competition by Charlie Brown of Chelsea.
The Brazilian is one of numerous players with overseas roots in the squad. One of the defenders, right-back Sergio López, even has connections to Germany. The 19-year-old was born in Remscheid but has never played for a German club. Then there is a player with French-Algerian roots whose surname commands instant respect and conjures wonderful memories for most football fans: Theo Zidane. The youngster is the third-eldest son − there are four in total − of former World Cup winner and current Real Madrid head coach Zinédine Zidane. However, Theo Zidane was born in 2002 and so he is technically still an U17 player. As such, he has not yet featured in the Youth League this term.
Real yet to reach Youth League final
One of the players in the current Youth League squad, left-back Fran García, has actually already featured for the senior side. The 19-year-old was substituted on at half-time in the Copa del Rey fixture with third-tier UD Melilla in December and set up Isco for the sixth and final goal in a 6-1 victory. A number of former youth team players − left-back Sergio Reguilón, goalkeeper Luca Zidane (Zidane's second-oldest son) and the two central midfielders Federico Valverde and Marcos Llorente − have already made the leap to a star-studded senior squad. They all once represented Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League.
But the proud club from the Spanish capital have never previously got their hands on the trophy. In the past five seasons, Real Madrid have reached the semi-finals three times, the quarter-finals once and the Round of 16 once. Last season, they were knocked out by English club Chelsea. Given this record, reaching the final for the first time and then going on to claim a maiden Youth League title is without doubt the primary objective for the Real Madrid academy. But to get there, they will first need to win at the Dietmar-Hopp-Stadion.
Real Madrid U19s
7 x Spanish U19 champions:
1995, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2017
13 x Spanish U19 cup winners:
1953, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1993, 2013, 2017
Previous Youth League participations (five)
2013/14: Semi-final (0-4 against Benfica)
2014/15: Round of 16 (1-3 against FC Porto AET)
2015/16: Semi-final (1-3 against Paris Saint-Germain)
2016/17: Semi-final (2-4 against Benfica)
2017/18: Quarter-final (2-4 against Chelsea)
División de Honor Juvenil de Fútbol – Group 5: Third place
Copa del Rey Juvenil: Final (1-3 against Atlético)
Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano [5,765]
Youth League Quarter-Final
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. Real Madrid
Wednesday at 18:00 CET, Dietmar-Hopp-Stadion
Live on Sport1 and via stream at sport1.de and airtango.live