This evening, Manchester City’s Academy side face Italian club AS Roma for a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Youth League.
City were fortunate to make the last eight, after conceding a late equaliser against Schalke at the City Academy Stadium, they then relied on goalkeeper Angus Gunn and his penalty shoot-out heroics. Patrick Vieira’s side now face the club they beat twice in the group stage, and the players will be confident of their ability to reach the semi-finals.
However, Vieira is keen to keep his players' feet on the ground, and speaking to the Manchester City website he knows it will be a tough game in Rome:
“In the two games against them, we were losing the first game 1-0 and managed to come back and win," he explained.
"Away from home it was 0-0 until the 70th minute, and then we scored at the end and we won the game. Both games were difficult and I expect this one to be even more difficult, but I think we are very well prepared and believe it will be a good game.
“The experience of going to penalties was very good for them and it was good for me as well as a young coach. It is always good to keep your nerve.
What is important for us is to go to the game and try to do everything in the right way and then I believe if we work hard, work well, if we are playing the way we know, we will give ourselves a good chance to make the next round, it's 50/50."
Although Vieira will look to the likes of Thierry Ambrose and Jose Angel Pozo to provide the attacking threat, City’s top scorer in the competition is midfielder Jack Byrne. The Irishman has scored six goals and despite recently seeing red against Fulham in the U21 Premier League, his driving runs and dangerous right foot will be a huge feature of City’s game plan.
Winning the UEFA Youth League would be a great success for City and Vieira, but the young coach knows that trophies are not what is important, as it’s all about developing the players he has at the club.
"I think our job is to help the boys improve and how we can make them a better player, and make them grow up. To make them understand that talent is not enough. If you want to be there with the first-team, you have to work hard," he said.
There is talent all over this City line-up, from left-back Angelino, the powerful Olivier Ntcham in midfield and local boy and left-winger Brandon Barker. City have spread the goals in the competition, with eight different goal scorers. In comparison, Roma have six, and none of them have scored more than twice.
City will start favourites, but it will be a huge test for this young team to win away in The Eternal City.
Possible Manchester City XI:
Angus Gunn; Ashley Smith-Brown, Pablo Maffeo, Tosin Adarabioyo, Angelino; Kean Bryan, Jack Byrne, Olivier Ntcham; Thierry Ambrose, Brandon Barker, Jose Angel Pozo