Coach Alan Connell will urge his AFC Bournemouth under-18s to focus their full attention on their top-of-the-table clash with Exeter City as they enter a key period of the season.
The Cherries host the Grecians at Canford Arena on Saturday (11am), the teams level on points at the EFL Youth Alliance summit with Connell’s charges leading the way on goal difference.
Victory over Exeter at St James Park last month set up an FA Youth Cup fourth-round showdown with QPR, which takes place at Vitality Stadium on Wednesday (7pm).
But Connell is keen to ensure the eagerly-awaited FA Youth Cup tie will not be a distraction as his players look to strengthen their position at the top of the EFL Youth Alliance.
He told afcb.co.uk: “It’s been great to get back on the training pitch this week. The lads had some time off over Christmas and they were set a programme that they had to do in their own time.
“Credit to them because we’ve had a really good week’s training and they all look fit and reasonably sharp.
“But Saturday’s game will give us a better indication of where were are in what will be a really tough game against Exeter, as it always is.
“Our focus is very much on this game against Exeter. Yes, we’ve got QPR in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday which is going to be a big occasion.
“But all I’m concentrating on at the moment is this game and I need to make sure the players perform.
“Knowing my players like I do they will want to put in a good performance and make sure they are in the starting line-up on Wednesday. We want to go into that game on the back of an impressive performance against Exeter.
“We always have very competitive games with Exeter. They are an academy which is established and one which consistently produces players. Our games against them are always really difficult and Saturday will be no different.
“We know each other quite well. I’ll be concentrating on making sure we’re in the right frame of mind and we perform to the levels we’re capable of.
“I’m expecting the players to be full of enthusiasm after the Christmas break and also with what’s to come next week.”
Click here for information on tickets for the FA Youth Cup tie against QPR.