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Francis embracing UEFA Youth League pressure

IN FOCUS: Ed Francis is eagerly anticipating the UEFA Youth League quarter-final.

IN FOCUS: Ed Francis is eagerly anticipating the UEFA Youth League quarter-final.

Pep Guardiola’s first team aren’t the only Manchester City squad eyeing a run into the latter stages of European competition this season.

Simon Davies’ U19s have booked their spot in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League and face a mouth-watering all English tie against Liverpool on Wednesday 14 March at the Academy Stadium.

Win and a trip to Switzerland’s Colovray Stadium, where the semi-final and final will be played across one weekend, beckons.

Next week’s encounter, therefore, has added pressure, but for Ed Francis that’s the perfect scenario for the young Blues, who he feels will thrive in the climactic environment of knockout football.

“It’s a big game,” he said.

“It always is when you play Liverpool, but that pressure helps us, so we’ll be well up for it.

“There’s definitely a confidence amongst us. We’ve got a strong squad so whatever team we put out we believe we can win this game.”

Francis was on target from 12 yards as City eclipsed a defensively minded Inter Milan on penalties in the last 16, while Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0.

ON TARGET: Lukas Nmecha equalises from the spot against Inter Milan.



City v Inter Milan: UEFA Youth League highlights

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Four of those playing for the Reds that day started as City won 3-2 in the Premier League 2 in January.

The 18-year-old defender also played that night and in much the same way that City adopt a similar style across the age groups, he’s predicting the same from Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool.

“They dropped off a bit when we played them for the EDS and though there’ll be a few younger lads coming into the side, we’d expect them to do the same again.

“They won’t sit off us as much as Inter Milan did, but we’re expecting a similar game.

“They’ll try and hit us on the counter attack.”

Cup competitions have not been kind to City’s youngsters this season.

Unable to find a breakthrough against Plymouth Argyle in the FA Youth Cup, the U18s crashed out on penalties, while in the Checkatrade Trophy, the U21s were heading through to the knockout stage until a last-minute equaliser against Chesterfield.

Francis played a part in both games and says the sense of disappointment serves only as motivation ahead of the Liverpool clash.

Not only that, he also wants to make history Club history.

“We’ve put those losses behind us, but of course, it’s extra motivation,” he explained.

“We lost in the FA Youth Cup final last year as well and most of that team will be playing against Liverpool, so we’ve got something to prove.

“We want to do it on the international stage.

“If we can be the first group in the Club’s history to reach the final tournament in Switzerland, that’s a mini-milestone for us and hopefully it can be a platform for us to win the whole thing.”

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'Magnificent' Grimshaw earns Davies' praise

SAFE HANDS: Daniel Grimshaw during the 2017 pre-season tour.

‘Wonderful’ was how Simon Davies chose to describe Daniel Grimshaw’s performance as Manchester City U19s beat Inter Milan to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League.

The young keeper excelled as the Blues progressed via a penalty shoot-out, saving four spot kicks to render an earlier mistake which led to the Inter goal meaningless.