City EDS take on Chelsea in the first match of the new Barclays U21 Premier League on Friday.
Atillio Lombardo is the new man in the Elite Development Squad hot seat this season and he revealed that the team are confident ahead of their first clash of the new league.
“In pre-season we had some mixed results, we lost to the TNS first-team in our last match but I’m happy and I think we will be fine on Friday.”
“It’s important to remember that the result comes second to helping this group of footballers to improve – that’s my job.”
There have been plenty of incomings and outgoings over the summer and the former Sampdoria forward admitted that the player turnover has had an impact on his pre-season preparations.
“We are a little bit late because we had a lot of trialists and new players coming in but I’m happy with the work and the attitude I’ve seen in training,” said the 46-year old.
“At one time we had 31 players with us but it’s no problem to me as they have worked really hard and even though we only have a day or two until the first game, we’re feeling confident.”
Last season was a transitional year for the EDS as they opted out of the Reserve League but Lombardo believes that the new league format, and the minimum of 32 competitive matches it brings, will be of tremendous benefit to his charges.
“It’s important for them to play more competitive games – last season they only played six games in the NextGen Series and that’s not enough for their development,” he said.
“We have a good chance now to play more and against big teams like Chelsea and in the NextGen Series which can only be a good thing for these players.”
Captain Reece Wabara was one of the team’s most consistent performers last season and he’s looking forward to an attractive encounter at Griffin Park on Friday.
“I’m expecting a really technical match against Chelsea - both teams will keep the ball well and I think it might come down to the team that keeps it best and is the most organised will win,” said the 20-year old.
“We’ve done a lot of shape work, getting the team to help each other blend together as we have quite a new squad but we haven’t had to do too much technical work as the players all have great technical qualities.”
The match kicks off at 19:00 at Brenford FC’s Griffin Park – you can follow live goal updates on Twitter and read a full match report shortly after the final whistle.
Chelsea are charging £3 for entry to the game if you’re in the area and want to lend your support.