Premier League teams rung the changes as the European group stages came to a close this week, with some promising youngsters impressing on the biggest stages in football.
With Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea already guaranteed a spot in the Champions League knockout rounds, the three sides gave opportunities to their academy products as they all avoided defeat on matchday six.
Meanwhile, Arsenal had sealed top spot in their Europa League group and continued bleeding through youngsters as they claimed a 4-2 victory in Dundalk to make it six wins out of six in Europe this season.
Sportsmail runs through the best performing youngsters and debutants from the midweek European action and determines how close each player is to regular first-team action…
Sportsmail looks at the most promising youngsters who appeared for English sides this week…
Folarin Balogun (Arsenal)
The teenage Arsenal striker is causing a minor headache for current head coach Mikel Arteta after he netted in the Europa League once again in the 4-2 win over Dundalk.
Balogun now has two senior Arsenal goals in three substitute appearances and is knocking on the door for a bigger first-team role this season.
Despite being compared to Ian Wright and Andy Cole by Sportsmail columnist Martin Keown, his strike against the Irish side on Thursday night had a touch of Thierry Henry about it, opening his body up down the left-hand channel before curling an effort into the opposite corner.
Folarin Balogun impressed once again for Arsenal as he chases regular football and a new deal
Despite the 19-year-old enjoying a positive start to his Arsenal career, there are several obstacles in the striker’s way to becoming a first-team regular.
Firstly, Balogun is behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alex Lacazette and fellow young striker Eddie Nketiah ahead of him in the pecking order and will surely struggle to get Premier League minutes irrespective of his current form.
Meanwhile, the forward is also facing a contract dispute with the club, with his current Gunners deal coming to an end in just over six month’s time.
Arsenal need to get that contract extended or they risk letting another young star slip through the net like Bayern Munich’s Serge Gnabry.
Balogun scored Arsenal’s fourth goal in the 4-2 win at Dundalk – his second of the season
Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal)
An Arsenal player who is more likely to get more first-team minutes after an impressive midweek display is young English midfielder Emile Smith Rowe.
The 20-year-old laid on an assist during Arsenal’s win in Ireland but, more importantly, impressed by acting as a key link between the midfield and the attack as the Gunners showed a rare prominence from open-play.
The Englishman has been a bright light in Arsenal’s recent Europa League displays and found himself on the scoresheet during the Gunners’ 4-1 win over Rapid Vienna last week. His overall record of a goal and two assists in three European games is a very promising return.
Emile Smith Rowe (above) was another promising Arsenal youngster who impressed in Ireland
Smith Rowe was handed a few Premier League appearances by interim manager Freddie Ljungberg last season but a mixed loan spell at Huddersfield Town and a long-term shoulder problem has hampered the youngster’s development ever since.
Yet with Thomas Partey injured and the likes of Granit Xhaka and Joe Willock too inconsistent for Mikel Arteta’s side, Smith-Rowe has been touted as an outside contender to start Arsenal’s Premier League tie with Burnley at the weekend.
Tino Anjorin (Chelsea)
While Chelsea were not able to get a victory in their final Champions League group game over Krasnodar, a particular highlight of the match for Frank Lampard was the display of debutant Tino Anjorin.
The English winger looked comfortable on the ball at Stamford Bridge and was not afraid to take people on. As well as a 89 per cent passing accuracy during his 80 minutes on the pitch, Anjorin also managed to successfully complete all of his dribbles during the 1-1 draw.
The 19-year-old nearly ended up on the scoresheet but could only lead wide from a corner during the second-half in west London.
Tino Anjorin played most of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Krasnodar and also impressed
At 6ft 1 inches, Anjorin looks like a real threat in wide areas and can cause damage to defences when at full speed. However, the winger faces a real battle to gain first-team minutes with the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech all competing for spots in Lampard’s front three.
The rise to form of Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud won’t help his chances either, so a loan move may be likely during the second-half of the season. Chelsea are known for that…
Billy Gilmour (Chelsea)
Fans of the Premier League are already familiar with young Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour, with the young Scot appearing in some top-flight matches last season for the Blues.
But a four-month knee injury brought Gilmour’s development to a standstill, though his fitness problems came to an end in spectacular fashion during Chelsea’s draw with Krasnodar on Wednesday.
Billy GIlmour made a sensational return to full fitness and impressed manager Frank Lampard
The 19-year-old covered every blade of grass from midfield as he managed to come through the 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge unharmed following his setback.
Chelsea manager Lampard was full of praise for the ‘outstanding’ young midfielder and expects the Scottish midfielder to continue contributing for Chelsea this season.
‘I felt very comfortable with him coming back in, he’s trained so well, done his rehab and he deserved his chance tonight,’ said Lampard.
Lampard claims he is hopeful that the young Scot can appear more times for Chelsea this term
‘So I expect to see more of the same from Billy as he gets stronger now he is past his injury.’
While N’Golo Kante and Jorginho are the first-choice options at the base of the midfield, do not rule out the possibility of Gilmour muscling his way into the team as Lampard looks to give more nods to the future.
Leighton Clarkson (Liverpool)
The young midfielder was a surprise starter for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Midtjylland on Wednesday night, but the midfielder showed why he is so highly-rated by the Anfield club.
Despite being just 5 ft 7 inches tall, Clarkson was an all-action midfielder during the match in Denmark and was not afraid to do his defensive duties as well as helping Klopp’s side develop attacks going forward.
Leighton Clarkson (right) was a surprise starter for Liverpool in their draw with Midtjylland
The 19-year-old may have to wait for more chances in the Liverpool red this season, though the Blackburn-born midfielder could be helped by the club’s injury problems.
Thiago Alcantara is struggling with injury and could be out until the New Year, while Fabinho is often asked to deputise at centre-half due to fitness problems in that department.
Should Liverpool’s injury crisis worsen over the busy winter schedule, there may be more opportunities for Clarkson to impress.
Billy Koumetio (Liverpool)
Half-time substitute Billy Koumieto became Liverpool’s youngest ever player in the Champions League during the Reds’ draw with Midtjylland.
The young French defender has enjoyed a dramatic rise through the Merseyside club’s youth ranks and was even a ball-boy during Liverpool’s dramatic 4-0 win over Barcelona in the 2019 Champions League semi-finals.
The 18-year-old could not help his side keep a clean sheet in Denmark but Koumetio did show good aerial ability on occasions and did not look out of place in the Liverpool backline.
Billy Koumetio (right) became Liverpool’s youngest ever player in the Champions League
With Jurgen Klopp’s side facing injury problems in defence, notably Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez with long-term issues, Koumetio could be handed more first-team opportunities by the German boss.
Current stand-ins Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips are by no means sure-starters at Anfield, while more senior option Joel Matip has fitness concerns of his own.
This may not be the last time we hear of the young Frenchman.
Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
Another Champions League debutant on Wednesday night was Manchester City Zack Steffen, who started in goal for Pep Guardiola’s side in their 3-0 win over Marseille.
The 25-year-old American goalkeeper was barely called into action during the 90 minutes at the Etihad but did have to make one important save from Pape Gueye’s strike with the scores at 0-0 in the first-half.
Zack Steffen was largely untroubled in goal for Manchester City in their 3-0 win over Marseille
It was Steffen’s third appearance of the season after making two appearances in the Carabao Cup though the shot stopper’s chances of more matches are quite low.
City goalkeeper Ederson is firmly Guardiola’s first choice between the sticks but if the Brazilian picks up an injury then Steffen can look at those three matches as important experience to stake his claim for a Premier League jersey.