City to put academy to the test against Chelsea

LONDON • Manchester City will place their hopes of winning the FA Cup in the hands of a clutch of youth-team graduates against Chelsea on Sunday, but expect that it will be at least three years before the heavy investment they have made in their youth system starts to produce regular first-team players.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini has decided to name several youngsters - the vast majority of them imported - in his starting XI at Stamford Bridge as he looks to rest as many of his senior squad as possible at the start of a daunting run of four games in as many competitions in the space of 11 days.

After returning to Manchester from London, City will fly to Ukraine for the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie with Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday morning. On the following Sunday they face Liverpool in the League Cup final, before meeting Juergen Klopp's side again in the Premier League three days later.

The club had hoped the FA would ease their schedule a little by holding the Chelsea game on Saturday afternoon. But they were told that bringing the fixture forward would not be approved by the Metropolitan Police because it would mean a clash with Fulham's home game against Charlton Athletic in the Championship.

Pellegrini, then, has been forced to pick which tournament is his priority, meaning the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, 19, Manu Garcia, 18, Aleix Garcia, 18, and Bersant Celina, 19, are all in line to start against the Premier League champions. The lone local youth product in contention for a place is Brandon Barker, a 19-year-old winger.

Under the guidance of academy director Mark Allen and director of coaching Rodolfo Borrell, City have adopted a policy of signing the brightest talents in their age groups from across the country. They spent a six-figure sum to sign Jadon Sancho from Watford, for example.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'City to put academy to the test against Chelsea'. Print Edition | Subscribe