Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has indicated that two young centre-backs at the club could be given first team opportunities during the season.
The Daily Express reported that Guardiola is considering giving game time to Eric Garcia (18) and Taylor Harwood-Bellis (17) over the next few months given the sparsity of senior centre-back options currently available.
The Mirror reported that John Stones is set to be out for four to five weeks after getting injured in training ahead of tonight’s Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk, while The Guardian claimed that Aymeric Laporte could miss six months with a serious knee injury sustained against Brighton recently. That has left Nicolas Otamendi as the only senior centre-back in Guardiola’s squad.
While Garcia and Harwood-Bellis would at least give Guardiola some natural centre-back cover for Otamendi in the absence of Stones and Laporte, the teenage duo are very green at first team level.
Garcia has played just three times for Manchester City’s senior side, all in last season’s Carabao Cup, although he was a regular in the team that reached the FA Youth Cup final in 2018/19, playing in five matches in that cup run.
Harwood-Bellis has not even made his first team debut for the club, but he too was involved regularly in the FA Youth Cup run last season, scoring three times in six matches. [via TransferMarkt.co.uk]
Guardiola hasn’t given many opportunities to players from Manchester City’s academy in his time at the club – even Phil Foden, the most-used academy graduate under the current manager, has made just 38 appearances since his debut in November 2017.
However, Guardiola could look to other top six Premier League clubs who have taken a chance on throwing academy players into the first team and reaping dividends.
Jurgen Klopp handed Trent Alexander-Arnold his first Premier League start for Liverpool against Manchester United in January 2017, having previously made just four appearances. He has now played 93 times for the Reds and started in two Champions League finals, winning one of them.
At Manchester United, Marcus Rashford was handed his debut in a Europa League knockout clash against FC Midtjylland and scored twice, following it up three days later with another brace against Arsenal on his Premier League debut. At just 21, he has scored 48 goals in 175 first team games for the club.
Guardiola has indicated that Fernandinho is likely to start at centre-back against Shakhtar Donetsk tonight, as reported by the Daily Mail, but the experiences of Alexander-Arnold and Rashford show the virtue of trusting in youth.
Garcia and Harwood-Bellis should be given the opportunity to prove themselves and the Carabao Cup clash against Preston next week may offer the perfect chance to show what they can do.
Manchester City fans, should Garcia and Harwood-Bellis be given frequent first team opportunities this season? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below!
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