This is the type of fixture you dream of – that’s the positive message from head coach Ben Wilkinson to his City players ahead of Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup semi-final away to Arsenal.

In what will be our first match back after the March international break, our Under-18s will step out at the Emirates Stadium for what will be one of the biggest moments in their fledgling careers in a game that will be screened live on CITY+ and Recast (kick-off 7pm UK).

City boast a proud record in the FA Youth Cup having won the prestigious tournament three times to date – most recently in 2020.

But though it’s an extra special fixture loaded with added significance in terms of what it means, for Wilkinson the key priority for the City youngsters is to stick to the principles and mindset that has helped bring them to this point.

And he believes the challenge of tackling the young Gunners at their flagship ground is exactly the type of test that can help bring the best out of City – and one to be savoured.

“These are the kind of fixtures you dream of when you are younger - obviously you only get one or two cracks at it so they are really looking forward to it,” Wilkinson declared.

“We couldn’t have got a better draw for me and for the players too in terms of the excitement and anticipation.

“Good opposition at a world class stadium on a fantastic pitch – it’s the perfect game for us.

“It’s the first time we have been drawn away in the FA Youth Cup this season but it’s not one where you are disappointed because the arena and the spectacle attached to it is going to be just the perfect test for our players.

“I’m really looking forward to the game and seeing if the players can handle the outside influences that come with it.

“Ultimately though we have to prepare for it in the way we prepare for any other game and give it the same attention and detail we do with any other match.

“We also need to be aware that there is a little bit more on this game and it’s good to address that with the players.

“But what we require from them on the night is to do nothing different from any other game and block out anything external.

“Yes, it’s a big game we know that, but in terms of preparation and performance we won’t be asking them to do anything different from before.”

That said, Wilkinson believes the challenge of seeking to overcome Arsenal on their home ground will be a challenge of a different magnitude to any City have faced so far this term in the FA Youth Cup.

However, he believes it is an occasion to be savoured and one that will present the perfect challenge with a final - and home tie - against either West Ham or Southampton the prize awaiting the victors.

“Arsenal have obviously done well to get here,” the City head coach added.

“They have got lots of outstanding individuals who are top players in the country I would say within their respective age groups so I think it will be the toughest challenge we have met so far.

“At youth level this is what you do it for.

“It’s going be a great night at a great stadium with two great teams. If you can’t enjoy Tuesday you are in the wrong business.

“I’m really looking forward to it from a coaching perspective and just to see how the players you have worked with closely how they perform on the night.

“And if they can play to their potential and be the best version of themselves I think we have a good chance to progress.”


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