Ireland youth international midfielder Jack Byrne is receiving rave reviews for his performances in this season’s maiden UEFA Youth League campaign.
The 17-year old played a starring role in City’s demolition of Bayern Munich on the last match day, with his passing range and tenacity in the tackle whetting supporters’ appetites at the talent that the club has coming through the ranks.
After two games, Patrick Vieira’s side find themselves level on points with CSKA at the top of Group D, meaning that the winner of Wednesday’s encounter between the teams may well have one foot in the last 16.
“We’re looking forward to CSKA, it will be a different type of game to what we’ve experienced before because I think it’s going to be on astroturf,” Byrne asserted.
“But this is what it’s all about, learning to play in different countries with different cultures under different conditions – it can only benefit us in the long run.
“You want to test yourselves against the best – CSKA have won both of their games too, so I think this game will be pivotal in deciding who tops the group and who progresses to the next round.
“I’ve never been to Russia before so I’m really looking forward to ticking it off, though I don’t think the weather is meant to be great, it’s freezing over there at the moment – I’ll have to put the toe-warmers in!”
City have got off to the perfect start in the tournament, having scored ten goals and conceded just one in their two games against Viktoria Plzen and Bayern Munich.
Last time out, Vieira’s side put six past Bayern – a result which sent shockwaves through the competition.
“The competition is of a really good standard but I feel like we have enough quality to go on and win it if we play to our highest standard,” Byrne declared.
“It’s a great competition. Everyone who is playing in it is really enjoying it - the fact that you travel with the first-team is amazing.
“At under-18 level we’re doing really well this season, so this competition is perfect for us.”
In the coverage of the first-team’s UEFA Champions League game against Viktoria Plzen a few hours after City u19s’ 4-1 win over the Czech outfit, Sky Sports pundit and former Blue Niall Quinn singled out Byrne for praise during the coverage.
Quinn likened his young compatriot to Paul Scholes, which was music to the Dubliners’ ears.
“It was unbelievable to hear that my name was mentioned on Sky Sports by Niall Quinn – all of my family were watching back home and I had lots of phone calls and texts.
“It was a great feeling, he's such a hero back in Ireland – I didn’t think I actually played that well in the game but it was a nice feeling that someone so respected in the game said that about me.”
We’ll have Twitter updates from this 10am (BST) kick-off in Russia and a full match report here on the official site.