Hibs Under-18s in Europe: All you need to know about the UEFA Youth League including teams, key dates, and venues
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The format of the tournament has changed in the last couple of years and next year’s edition will be the ninth season of the competition.
Barcelona and Chelsea have won two Youth League titles apiece, while the current champions are Benfica who saw off Red Bull Salzburg in last year’s final.
In the first two editions of the Youth League, 32 teams competed in a group stage, playing each other home and away, with the top two teams advancing to the knockout phase.
From 2015/16 the number of teams involved doubled from 32 to 64 – with the youth teams of the 32 clubs participating in the group stages of the Champions League included along with the champions of domestic youth leagues in the top 32 associations according to UEFA coefficient.
The youth teams of the 32 Champions League clubs competed in a group format that mirrored the senior competition while the 32 domestic champions played two rounds of two-legged ties, with the eight winners advancing to a play-off round against one of the group runners-up.
Scotland in the Youth League
Scotland has had a representative in seven of the eight competitions so far – Celtic competed in 2013/14, 2015/16, 2016/17, and 2017/18 while Hamilton Accies featured in the 2018/19 edition. Rangers played in the 2019/20 and 2021/22 tournaments, with the 2020/21 edition scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Celtic lost in the play-off round in 2015/16, beaten on penalties by Valencia after a 1-1 draw while the Light Blues lost to Atletico Madrid and Sevilla in the play-off rounds.
Who could Hibs face?
You’d be as well throwing a dart at a map, up to a point. As mentioned it won’t be any of the teams associated with clubs that are already in the group stages of next season’s Champions League, meaning Hibs won’t be drawn to face the youth sides of Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Porto, Barcelona, or last year’s beaten finalists and 2016/17 winners Red Bull Salzburg.
The Domestic Champions path, in which Hibs will compete, will include the youth champions of the top 32 associations by 2021 UEFA country coefficient.
According to UEFA, ‘if the senior team of a domestic youth champion did qualify for the Champions League group stage, the vacant place is filled by the domestic youth champion of the next-ranked entering association’.
The 32 teams in the Domestic Champions half of the draw are split into groups based on sporting and regional patterns, although there is no seeding system.
In last year’s competition Rangers were in a group with Angers SCO of France, Midtjylland of Denmark, Red Star Belgrade, Swedish side Hammarby, Rosenborg of Norway, Romanian outfit Miercurea Ciuc and Irish club St Patrick’s Athletic, and drew Hammarby.
In the 2019/20 edition Rangers were in a group with representatives from France, Portugal, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Latvia, and the Republic of Ireland.
Teams that competed in the Domestic Path in the last two editions of the Youth League include MTK Budapest of Hungary, Macedonian First League side KF Shkëndija, Danish representatives Midtjylland, PAOK of Greece, Slovenians NK Domžale, Qabala FK of Azerbaijan, and Cypriot team APOEL.
Hibs are likely to avoid any especially arduous journeys at this stage of the competition – there were ‘derby’ matches in last season’s first round, including Rosenborg against near-neighbours Midtjylland; Domžale against Empoli, and Daugavpils vs Minsk.
Format of Domestic Champions games
Each tie in the Domestic Champions path is played over two legs, with each team playing a ‘home’ fixture.
The team that scores more goals on aggregate will advance to the next round. In the event of a tie after both legs, the match will be decided by a penalty shoot-out with no extra time, with the away goals rule already scrapped.
From the play-off round onwards, matches are played over a single leg, with penalties again used to determine the winner in the event of a draw after 90 minutes.
Where will Hibs play their home games?
When Rangers competed in the Youth League, they played matches at Dumbarton’s stadium The Rock, where the Ibrox club’s B team also played fixtures. Celtic used a mixture of Cappielow, Almondvale, The Rock, and Celtic Park, and Hamilton used New Douglas Park.
The Evening News understands Hibs will fulfil their home fixtures at Easter Road – a change from playing home games at the Hibernian Training Centre.
When is the draw made?
Hibs face a bit of a wait for the draw to be made. The draw for the Champions League path is made first, and will take place on August 25, with matchdays on September 6/7, September 13/14, October 4/5, October 11/12, October 25/26, and November 1/2.
The draw for the Domestic Champions path is then made five days later on August 30, with the first round games taking place on September 14 and October 5, and the second round matches on October 26 and November 2.
The draw for the play-off round will be made on November 8 in Nyon, at UEFA headquarters, with the matches being played on February 7/8.
The draw for the round of 16 will be made on February 13 with matches played on February 28 or March 1 followed by the quarter-finals on March 14/15.
Centre Sportif de Colovray Nyon, home of Stade Nyonnais and situated opposite European football’s governing body HQ will host the semi-final matches on April 21 and the final on April 24.
What has head coach Gareth Evans said?
"The boys deserve the opportunity to go and play in a European competition next season. That will be another part of their development, which will hopefully prepare them to make the step up to play regular first-team football.
"A lot of the boys have had previous European trips before. They have been to Portugal, France and won the Foyle Cup in Ireland at under-14 level.
"They have played against good opposition so hopefully that will stand them in good stead when it comes to playing European football this year.”