UEFA Europa League 2012: 5 Top Youngsters to Watch on Thursday
With the Champions League action now done and dusted for the week, it’s time for the Europa League to take to the stage, and with it, some of Europe’s most prodigious starlets.
For some of the continent’s ‘larger’ outfits, the competition represents an opportunity to rest some senior members and hand the youth a chance, while for other clubs, resting players isn’t a luxury that can be afforded.
By that logic, every club participating should have at least one particularly powerful prospect and the following slides chronicle just which gems will gleam brightest on Thursday.
Bare in mind, any players included herein must be aged 23 or below in order to qualify as “youngster”, regardless of their existing status.
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After spending a season on loan at Swansea City in the 2011-12 campaign, Steven Caulker proved that he was more than merely an emerging talent to be nurtured elsewhere and perhaps deserves his place at Spurs right now.
The 20-year-old is already making his own impact on the Tottenham starting XI and it would seem that Andre Villas Boas is ready to throw him into the European fray once more after starring in the 0-0 draw against Lazio.
Goal.com recently reported William Gallas as saying that Caulker can “make it to the very top” and considering the starlet is vying with the Frenchman for a starting place, he must be speaking the honest truth.
Greece is never an easy place to travel and Caulker will need to be at his best if he is to keep an eager Panathinaikos attack at bay.
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After winning four of their last six matches in all competitions, Levante will be far from easy competition for Hannover 96, and one person who risks being found out on Thursday is Ron-Robert Zieler.
The Hannover stopper is being tipped for a bright future on both the club and international stage and has already made two appearances for Die Mannschaft.
Levante have scored eight goals in those last six games and considering that Die Roten are yet to keep a clean sheet at home this season, a lot of responsibility lies directly on Zieler’s shoulders.
The 23-year-old was once on the books of Manchester United and although he is only now fulfilling his potential, Zieler still has some way to go before proving why the Red Devils showed interest all those years ago.
Despite being just 21 years, Alexandre Lacazette has proven himself to be a very capable talent when performing for Lyon at time this season.
The winger has made six starts for the Ligue 1 outfit so far this season, recording two assists in the process and earning his rights to battle for a starting spot.
It would seem as though Rémi Garde is willing to utilise Lacazette in European competition just as many other managers.
Therefore, it’s imperative that the youngster pounces on his chance against Hapoel Kiryat Shmona when he travels to Israel with the rest of his squad.
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Already making his moves into Brendan Rodgers’ first team, Jonjo Shelvey is a favourite to succeed amongst many Liverpool supporters searching for the next Steven Gerrard.
Shelvey is still banned from English competition after picking up a red card against Manchester United, so it’s very likely that Rodgers will start the midfielder on Wednesday to give him some needed playing time.
The 20-year-old creative midfielder came on to score a brace against Young Boys two weeks ago and it will be interesting to see if the former Charlton star can replicate that kind of performance against Udinese.
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Already an established player with the Egyptian national team, Mohamed Salah also starred greatly for the nation’s Under-23 side at the London 2012 Olympics, scoring in each of their three group games.
While he may be just 20 years old, Salah is already figuring massively in the plans of FC Basel coach, Heiko Vogel, this season, scoring three goals and making two assists in eight starts.
Racing Genk are no pushovers in European competition and Salah will be one of the players expected to create ammunition from the wings if the hosts are to emerge as victors.