After yesterdays demoralising defeat inflicted by Arsenal, Manuel Pellegrini’s City side look to put the result behind them with a five-day training camp in Abu Dhabi. The Blues will play Hamburg in a friendly, before arriving back in Manchester ahead of the FA Cup fourth round tie with Middlesbrough. With the Middlesbrough game merely around the corner, as well as the crunch clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, it is unlikely that City will be out in full force for the game against the Germans. That opens the door for several fringe players and EDS youngsters to get on the pitch, so here is an overview of the four young starlets who have joined the first-team in the Middle East.
It is pleasing to see George Evans accompany the first team on the Abu Dhabi trip. Evans is at a crucial stage in his career, where he needs regular football. He is seemingly too good for the EDS, yet is still not quite up to standard for the first team. A former youth-team captain, Evans has a great football brain, able to read play well and sniff out attacks. This aids him greatly in the position he plays in, as he is capable of playing both in midfield and deputising at centre-back. He spent a considerable amount of time training with Melbourne City in the summer, and even featured in a couple of pre-season friendlies. It is quite strange to see so many EDS players sent on loan at different points in the campaign, yet Evans still finds himself playing for the reserves. The 20-year old has trained with the first-team on a number of occasions, and this trip should be a perfect opportunity for Evans to demonstrate his abilities to Manuel Pellegrini and his staff. A potential appearance in the Hamburg game could benefit him hugely.
Frenchman Thierry Ambrose is already ahead of schedule in terms of his progress in the City ranks. The former Auxerre man made the bench for City’s 3-0 win over Palace in December, and is a regular in Patrick Vieira’s side, despite only figuring for Jason Wilcox’s U-18’s side last season. The 17-year old was in impressive form last season with 23 goals, culminating in progression to the EDS setup. He has continued where he left off in the current campaign, and at present has 11 goals thus far – making him the joint top scorer. He is a nimble player, with neat movement and calmness infront of goal. Though his size would not suggest though, he is rather strong in the air, In addition to this, he is a real workhorse and does a commendable job of defending from the front. Many fans are hoping to see Ambrose fare on a grander stage, and that may begin on this trip.
Another player who has trained with the first-team in recent weeks is Bersant Celina. The 18-year old has clearly made an impression on Manuel Pellegrini, who named him as a substitute in the FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday; had the game been more comfortable for the Blues, fans could well have seen Celina in action. Like Ambrose, Celina has stepped up to Vieira’s side and has done so with aplomb, scoring six goals and contributing to the team in a number of ways. He has all the required attributes to succeed in the no.10 role, with a knack of delivering killer, incisive passes. He combines this with a deft touch from range, with excellent strikes coming in games against Liverpool, Roma and Blackburn. At the tender age of 18, he is a full-international with Kosovo, so his unlikely to be phased in regards to a possible friendly appearance in Abu Dhabi.
Finally, a name who City fans are becoming increasingly familiar with is Brandon Barker, who has been with City since he was eight. Barker has been one of the major success stories in the youth set-up this season, frequently causing havoc down the left flank and terrorising his full-back. The 17-year old has burst onto the scene, and is currently in an exceptional vein of form, with the winger notching five goals in his last three games. Explosively exciting and equally dangerous with either foot, Barker’s rise has been meteoric and it would be utterly rewarding for him to get a taste of first-team action. He has been a revelation in all senses this season, displaying maturity in his game and producing a real spread of goals and assists. There is a great belief amongst City fans that in Barker, City have a real gem of a player; should he continue to dazzle in Abu Dhabi then all would point towards a competitive first-team appearance in the near future, potentially against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.