The second year of the NextGen Series is in full swing, and Tottenham's clash with Barcelona at White Hart Lane brings the first big glamour tie for the English sides participating. The youth equivalent of the Champions League was a huge success last season, helping talents like Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, Aston Villa's Gary Gardner and Celtic's Tony Watt all break into the first team at their clubs through their brilliant European displays. With the series broadcasting on television this year, the chances are even higher of the competition's brightest young talents seeing first team football off the back of a strong showing, so talkSPORT picked six players to watch at some of the top English sides along with Europe's elite...
Name: Serge Gnabry
Date of birth: July 14, 1995
Serge Gnabry's inclusion in Arsenal's 25-man Champions League squad shows how highly rated he is among the Arsenal hierarchy, and his displays so far in this year's NextGen suggest the wide man is comfortable with the step up to European football. Gnabry has the perfect combination of skill, passing ability and acceleration from a standing position, and he used all of those abilities to assist the second goal in Arsenal's 3-0 victory of Marseille in the Gunners' first tie of the competition. Gnabry arrived at Arsenal from VfB Stuttgart in 2011, and it took him only a year to win a personal contract with the North London club. Though Arsenal suffered a 2-0 defeat in their second NextGen tie against Olympiakos, Gnabry worked tirelessly to try and keep his team in the game, with his pace a constant threat as usual. Arsenal should be the perfect club for Gnabry to continue his development, considering the history of successful wingers with the Gunners, and after making his first team debut in a pre-season friendly against Cologne in the summer, he could see some first team action in cup competitions in the near future.
Name: Adam Morgan
Date of birth: April 21, 1994
Young Liverpool forward Adam Morgan's star is rising rapidly in Merseyside, with some sectors of the support even calling for him to play a major role in the first team this season in an effort to bolster their weak squad. The striker began to raise eyebrows with 21 goals in the 2010/11 season with the U18s, including one against Manchester United, and his natural finishing ability ensured he would make the step up to the reserve team the following year to play in the inaugural NextGen Series. Morgan continued his scoring exploits by finding the net on three occasions for Liverpool in last year's NextGen, and Brendan Rodgers was clearly made aware of the talent he had in the academy upon his arrival at the club, with Morgan being given ample opportunities with the first team in this year's pre-season tour. His brilliant rise to prominence continued with a goal against Toronto FC in the summer, and after two further appearances in the pre-season he was rewarded with his first ever competitive game for the club, coming on in the 90th minute against Hearts in the Europa League, then starting in the return leg of the tie. Including Morgan in this year's NextGen squad is a cunning move by Rodgers, who will no doubt want the youngster to continue to be tested at a high level while at the same time avoiding too much pressure as part of the first team, something the European competition should help facilitate. If anyone at Liverpool is expected to follow in Raheem Sterling's footsteps it's likely to be Morgan.
Name: Denis Suarez
Club: Manchester City
Position: Attacking midfielder
Date of birth: 6 January, 1994
Manchester City don't just spend big on their first team, with the Citizens paying an initial fee of £850,000 (which could rise to £2.75m based on appearances) to Celta Vigo for tricky number ten Denis Suarez in 2011. Comparisons between David Silva and the youngster have been made due to his technical ability, vision and eye for a cutting pass, and when they're combined with his excellent work rate he's a formidable opponent. Suarez suffered slightly in last year's NextGen from City's over-reliance on the Spaniard, with the Citizens often resorting to giving him the ball and hoping he could do most of the hard work for them, but his standout displays for Spain in their European Under-19 Championship victory this summer suggest he's more than capable of pulling the strings in the right set-up. The path to the City first team is never easy for youngsters at the Etihad these days, with so many big money superstars in the way, but if Suarez continues his brilliant year with a strong NextGen campaign then Roberto Mancini will surely be forced to consider him sooner rather than later.
Name: Lucas Piazon
Date of birth: January 20, 1994
Like Denis Suarez, Lucas Piazon is finding it difficult to make a breakthrough at a club that doesn't traditionally opt for promoting from within over spending big. Not that the young Brazilian seems to be taking much note, as he continues to produce brilliant display after brilliant display for Chelsea's reserves, and even managed to score for the Blues senior side in pre-season this year against PSG. In Chelsea's first game of the 2012/13 NextGen Series against CSKA Moscow he was the star for the Blues, showing an instinctive ability to find space despite the congested midfield, a talent that can't be underestimated when attempting to unlock stubborn opposition. As may be expected of a Brazilian forward, his dribbling ability is second to none, and he looks equally comfortable providing goals for others as well as scoring them, meaning he's a versatile option for Chelsea should they choose to give him a shot at first team football. If he continues in this kind of form, expect big things from him in the NextGen Series this year, and perhaps even bigger things if Roberto Di Matteo pays attention.
Name: Sergi Samper
Date of birth: January 20, 1995
Xavi's influence on Sergi Samper is evident when watching the youngster play, with his natural knack for dropping a shoulder, turning an opponent inside out then playing the ball into dangerous areas eerily reminiscent of the current Barca vice captain. After being fast-tracked through the Barcelona youth system, Samper starred for Barca in their strong showing in last year's NextGen Series, and his inclusion in this year's squad ensures joy for Barcelona fans and neutrals, as well as dread for those hoping Spurs can turn them over at White Hart Lane, where he's expected to start. Between comparisons with Xavi as well as Italy hero Andrea Pirlo, Samper has huge expectations on his shoulders, but his composure on the field seems to be matched with a similar level-headedness off it, as it's believed he turned down an offer from Arsenal in 2011 out of determination to succeed with the Catalans.
Name: Luis Cortez
Club: Sporting Lisbon
Date of birth: 18 April, 1994
Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Nani are some of the big names to have graced Sporting's hallowed youth academy, and it looks like they've found another gem in the form of Luis Cortez. The midfielder excels in receiving the ball under pressure then playing the role of conductor for those in front of him, but he equally possesses a rocket of a shot, as he showed when he came off the bench to score a 25-yard winner against Celtic in Sporting's first tie of this year's NextGen. Cortez has been lauded for his natural ability to read the game as well as his strong technique, and with Sporting making it clear that they intend to use the NextGen as a way of finding potential first team talent, his name is one that could be well known in the future.
Will the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and City reap the rewards of the NextGen Series with players ready for the first team? Comment below and let us know...