Barcelona's La Masia stars: Cucurella, Mboula, Bueno among hopes
Barcelona's Juvenil A side travelled to Switzerland on Wednesday ahead of Friday's UEFA Youth League semifinal against Red Bull Salzburg. The winner will play either Benfica or Real Madrid in Monday's final in Nyon.
Gabri Garcia's youngsters are aiming to win the trophy for the second time since the competition's inauguration in 2014, with English side Chelsea having won it on the other two occasions.
Beyond that, though, what Barca hope is that the experience serves to help develop players for the first team. Just five members of the 2014 winning squad remain at the club -- and only Munir El Haddadi, now on loan at Valencia, has extensive first team experience -- and the aim is for more of the current crop to stick around in the coming years.
Here are five Barca players to watch out for during the Youth League's Final Four this week ...
Known simply as Cucu, as a left-back he has come through the academy largely unrecognised outside the club. However, this season he has taken huge strides forward. He has been key to Barcelona's run to this stage -- even scoring in the win over Manchester City in the group stages -- and has forced his way into Gerard Lopez's table topping Barca B side, too.
Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton have all been credited with an interest in the 18-year-old, who is a regular in Spain's U19 side. Quick across the ground, good in the air, aggressive and comfortable on the ball, he's perhaps the most likely player in Gabri's side to make the big time.
The tall attacker is described by the club as the most mediatico. Not just in terms of who generates the most attention from the media, but because of the ease and comfort he has on the rare occasions Barcelona allow him -- or anyone in the Juvenil A team -- to speak to the press.
Mboula became the face of Barca's Youth League campaign this season with a stunning solo goal against Borussia Dortmund in the round-of-16 and he leads the way with seven goals in seven appearances. However, despite being likened to Thierry Henry, those that watch him week in, week out complain about a lack of consistency. His pace and ability to create moments of magic mean he's the most likely to make the difference in Switzerland, though.
No, he's not related. But he is the closest thing this young Barca side has to his namesake, first team midfielder Sergio Busquets. Sitting in front of the back four, he has played in seven of eight games in this season's Youth League, breaking up opposition attacks and keeping things simple.
Busquets is strong, tall (over 6-foot), signed a three-year contract with the club in 2015 and is one of several members of Gabri's side who could be playing for Gerard Lopez's Barca B team next season. And with a little bit of luck, that will be back in the second tier of Spanish football if they can assure promotion this season.
Things have not been straight forward for the teenager dubbed "The South Korean Messi". Lee's arrival at the club in 2011 was one of the cross-border youth transfers that led FIFA to impose a ban that prevented the club registering new signings for two transfer windows. Therefore, he spent nearly two years unable to play for the club, waiting until he turned 18 in January of 2016.
It's easy to see why the Messi comparisons emerged. He's small, tricky and starts outside before cutting in. Yet all too often he finds himself pushed off the ball and he's in and out of Gabri's side. Being unable to play for so long affected his development, but Barca have stood by him and he's stood by them and both are still hopeful of a happy ending.
The problem is predicting what comes next. He's nowhere near the level required for the first team and he may not even be able to find a place in the B team. A loan move has been rumoured.
Signed from CA Penarol, Uruguayan centre-back Bueno could eventually cost Barcelona as much as €5 million. Given the outlay, he will almost certainly form part of the B team next season, but he's being eased in with minutes with the Juvenil A team. He's only featured in one Youth League game given he wasn't around for the group stages, but he could play a big role in the final four.
Initial comparisons when he joined the club where that he's a mix of Gerard Pique and compatriot Diego Godin, which would be pretty impressive. "That's what people say, but I'm Santiago Bueno and I have my own desire to be a success," he said of the links.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.