Manchester City young guns aiming to play their way into plans of Pep Guardiola

Premier League champions' talented 10 auditioning for spot in first-team squad next season

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Manchester City’s top 10 kids are bidding to find their way on to Pep Guardiola’s playlist.

Many of them will get their first spin on Thursday when the English champions take on Club America in Houston in the first of two games on a short tour of the USA.

And if they pass their tryouts, and impress in training, the best of the bunch could find themselves in Guardiola’s squad for the rest of the season.

For Cole Palmer, Liam Delap, and James McAtee the auditions are nothing new.

Palmer, 20, made his first team debut in September 2020 and has since featured in the Premier League and scored in a Champions League victory over Club Brugge.

His performances and potential are two of the reasons why City were comfortable letting experienced top internationals Gabriel Jesus (to Arsenal) and Raheem Sterling (Chelsea) leave this summer.

Palmer, like Phil Foden, has been at City since he was an eight-year-old and is expected to feature heavily in the first team this season.

McAtee and Delap, both 19, have also both been on Guardiola’s radar for some time and are permanent fixtures in first team training.

Midfielder McAtee has been linked to a loan move to Brighton this summer and has other clubs hovering expectantly. However, the youngster, who ironically made his Premier League debut for City as a substitute for pal Palmer in a win over Everton ten months ago, has signed a new deal and is happy to try to force his way into Guardiola’s thinking.

Vincent Kompany, the former Manchester City captain and new manager of Burnley, is interested in taking Liam Delap on loan. Getty

Delap, meanwhile, remains a target for former City captain Vincent Kompany, now manager at Burnley, with City mulling over a possible loan deal.

At least half a dozen other Championship sides have also enquired about his availability. Delap’s position is complicated further by the arrival of big money strikers Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez.

The seven other young hopefuls trying to catch the manager’s eye, and who will be given the opportunity, are Kayky, Luke Mbete, Josh Wilson-Esbrand, Oscar Bobb, Rico Lewis, Finley Burns and Ben Knight.

Central defender Mbete (18) has already made his first team debut in the League Cup and this summer agreed a three-year extension to his deal that keeps him at City until 2027.

Fellow centre-half Burns, who is 19 and an England international in several age groups, had a spell on loan at Swansea last season but is also part of City’s long-term planning.

Brazilian forward Kayky arrived at City from his boyhood club Fluminense for whom he scored in the Copa Libertadores as a 17-year-old. He cost City in the region of £7 million and last season featured in the FA Cup and made a Premier League debut against Norwich City. Now 19-years-old, Kayky will be given a chance to shine against stiff competition before next steps are decided.

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Wilson-Esbrand, 19, is another to have tasted first team football though his progress has been hampered by injuries. The left back, who joined City from West Ham, made his first team debut in the League Cup and will be hoping for more minutes should Oleksandr Zinchenko leave this summer.

Norwegian Bobb, also 19, is a winger who has yet to make his first team debut but has developed alongside McAtee, Delap and Palmer in a prolific reserve team attack and City’s coaches have seen enough to give him his chance to step up.

Lewis is the youngest of those currently under Guardiola’s wing in the United States. The 17-year-old right back has been at City since he was eight-years-old and has always been seen as a precocious talent having made his debut for the under 18s as a 15-year-old. He captained them to the league title last term and was named player of the season.

Knight, a 20-year-old attacking midfielder or striker, has already tasted first team football for City at Wembley Stadium as a substitute in the Community Shield contest against Leicester City. He spent last season on loan at Crewe Alexandra but had his game time cut short by two lengthy injuries.

With City having left behind Aymeric Laporte, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and John Stones, all ten hopefuls – but especially the defenders – could find themselves sharing the pitch with the established stars in the two game tour that also sees City face Bayern Munich in Green Bay on Sunday before they fly home and prepare to face Liverpool in the Community Shield on July 30.

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Updated: July 19, 2022, 2:59 AM
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