EDS & Academy

Barry-Murphy: City relishing UEFA Youth League challenge

Brian Barry-Murphy says City are relishing stepping into the unknown as we prepare to launch our UEFA Youth League campaign at home to Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday.

The City youngsters play host to the Serbian champions at the Joie Stadium in a game that gets underway at 15.00pm (UK) and which will also be screened live on CITY+.

Our Under-19s enjoyed a fine European campaign last term, winning our group before narrowly being edged out 2-1 away to Hajduk Split in the last 16.

The incentive is to try and kick on once more – but the City head coach is aware that the nature of the challenge with from the likes of Red Star, along with RB Leipzig and Young Boys will be intense.

City will also have to navigate the challenge of having lost several of the experienced members of last season’s squad, but for Barry-Murphy it’s a scenario to be embraced.

“I think the UEFA Youth League has been one of the highlights of my time at the Club,” the head coach asserted.

“I think the excitement and anticipation of the level of challenge that you are going to face and also that feeling of the unknown (is brilliant).

“My theory is that you really have to presume you are going to play one of the strongest teams in the competition.

“Red Star had a very good season last year and they were knocked out by AZ Alkmaar in the knockout stages who went on to win the final.

“So, I think you have to presume the level of challenge is going to be at the highest level and more often than not you won’t be disappointed.

“It’s a very use tool for us as a club in terms of measuring our players against the best that Europe has to offer.

“Last season we had a lot of players who had played in the competition the season before and been surprised and ultimately disappointed at getting knocked out in the group stages.

“So, they were well prepared for that. This year we have only got maybe two players who were regulars last season, so we are really starting off from scratch again.

“And even in terms of our over age players – last year we had five or six, this season we have got three so we are going to be very, very young in the competition but I think that is so beneficial to us as a club in that we test ourselves in such a competitive event.”

In terms of the specific challenge that Red Star will pose, Barry-Murphy is anticipating the sternest of examinations from the Serbians for his exciting but inexperienced young players.

And he also believes the competitive nature of the UEFA Youth League means that the battle to try and reach the knockout stages will be subject to many twists and turns over the course of the campaign.

“Red Star - like most sides from that part of the world - will have great technique and talent,” Barry-Murphy pointed out.

“I think the calibre of the challenge will be the same as when we played Hajduk Split in the knockout stages last season.

“That was something we prepared for very well but ultimately, we came up short so we will be preparing as if we are going to face that level of competition again.

“Last season’s experience has only made us more hungry this year but with a clear understanding that the group stages are going to very topsy-turvy. Never mind from game to game but within the games themselves.

“We may have won the group pretty comfortably last season with a large points tally but it was easy to forget that at stages early on where we were losing to Dortmund it looked like we were heading out.

“So, I think the level of competition is very close and much more unpredictable which is part of the beauty of the competition.”