Milk Cup: Spanish teams fired-up to put an end to African dream
Hot streak Ghanians are favourites for Milk Cup
Spanish hopefuls Real Sociedad and Malaga are plotting to put the brakes on the Ghanaian phenomenon sweeping European youth football.
The sensational Right to Dream academy are the team to beat in the Premier Dale Farm Milk Cup chase this week.
CSKA Moscow and Newcastle United will also fancy their chances but it looks to be the Africans who are in the box seat after continuing their winning streak at the Nike Cup in Manchester last week.
Real and Malaga are making their debuts at the Northern Ireland event where Barcelona were winners a decade ago and remain the only Spanish team to land the title.
Milk Cup organiser Jim Sandford believes the Premier and Junior events are more competitive this year than ever before.
He watched the Right to Dream Academy side in action in Manchester and was most impressed.
"They bring a kind of magic to their play. Their attacking style is outstanding and great to watch," he said.
"They remind me of the Etoile Lusitana team who came here five years ago and broke the mould, going on to sparkle in the final when they beat Bolton Wanderers.
"I think we are all going to be surprised at the ability of Right to Dream players. They will bring something new and exciting to the competition."
Right to Dream, winners of the world famous Gothia Cup in Sweden a week before their Manchester arrival, have seen off some of the strongest clubs in Europe in recent times.
Meanwhile, the French regional side Vendee are back in a bid to make up for the disappointment of losing out to Manchester United in last year's final when defender Cameron Borthwick-Jackson's goal settled the contest.
"Vendee were terrific and beat CKSA to reach the final," says Jim Weir, tournament chief. "I think they could be dark horses."
Much has been written about the non-appearance of United, 12-time finalists in the Premier section, but the organisers believe the competition will continue to flourish despite their decision to end a 25-year relationship.
Jim Sandford used his visit to Manchester last week to hold talks with the club.
"I don't want to go into detail but I have spoken to Old Trafford officials again and our relationship with the club continues to be a good one, despite what has been said in some quarters about their decision not to join us in 2015," he says.
Although he would not be drawn on what might happen next year, there are positive signs that we may not have seen the last of the Red Devils at the competition.
The arrival of La Liga clubs Malaga and Sociedad is a major coup for the milk men who have continued to cast their net far and wide to attract a diversity of entrants.
"There are teams from Japan, Mexico, Colombia, New Zealand, Chile, Russia, America, Spain, France, Ghana and Zambia providing a rich diversity," adds Jim.
Former England defender Dave Watson and the ex-Everton, Arsenal and Aston Villa midfielder Kevin Richardson head up the coaching team with Newcastle United who are the sole English side.
Spanish hope to put an end to African dream as big kick-off looms