After returning from a pre-season training camp in Croatia, City’s EDS are focused on preparations for our Premier League 2 curtain-raiser against newly promoted Southampton at the CFA this Sunday.
Last season showed shoots of promise but with a new campaign comes new targets and opportunities for the Young Blues to work towards.
Below are some key points that you need to know ahead of the new campaign…
A quick start
The early months represent a key period for City, with trips to Tottenham, Liverpool and Derby County on the calendar alongside home clashes against Chelsea and Wolves.
Taking newly promoted Wolves out of the equation, the remaining five sides all finished within six points of each other, so if Paul Harsley’s side can gain some positive results from these fixtures, they will have built a strong platform for the rest of the campaign.
This could be particularly crucial given their next three games see them face last season’s top three, with Brighton and Arsenal being welcomed to the CFA after a difficult trip away to Everton, but the Blues will be lifted by their strong home form; the third best in last season’s Premier League 2.
The return of Joel Latibeaudiere
The former under 18s captain was frustrated by two separate Posterior Cruciate Ligament injuries at the end of 2018, ruling him out for a number of months.
But his road to recovery looks to be reaching the home stretch as he continues to build himself back to fitness with the rest of Paul Harsley’s squad ahead of the new season.
The defender will have benefited hugely from a two-part rehabilitation trip to Catalonia during his recovery, using facilities at La Liga outfit Girona as well as spending time training with Rugby League side Catalans Dragons.
Experiences such as these will have left a positive effect on the young centre-back, who will be ready to stamp his authority on Premier League 2, continue his rise up the ranks, and become an influential figure both on and off the CFA pitch.
A taste of the first team
As mentioned, the Young Blues’ performances haven’t gone unnoticed, with several of the squad also grabbing a taste of first-team experience in the last campaign.
Spanish defender Eric Garcia featured three times for Pep Guardiola’s side en route to us picking up a second consecutive Carabao Cup, playing the full ninety in the quarter-final penalty victory at Leicester and both legs of the last four clash with Burton Albion.
Nabil Touaizi, Ian-Carlo Poveda and Adrian Bernabe to name just a few have also sampled the senior environment during our Asia Tour over the summer months.
Becoming immersed in the demands of first-team football and learning from some of the best in the business both on and off the field can only benefit a young professional, and the lads will be keen to put their new experiences into practice.
GALLERY: EDS return to CFA
Paul Harsley’s second season in charge
From a results point of view, Harsley described his first season in the hotseat as ‘up and down’, but that belies the progress the Young Blues have made under the former Scunthorpe, Macclesfield and Port Vale midfielder’s tutelage.
Reaching the latter stages of the EFL Trophy plus a number of the squad making their senior debuts provides evidence of the team’s development over the campaign, and the boss is looking forward to what the new season will bring.
Following the 3-1 win over Swansea to bring last season to a close, he said: "We now have an even better understanding of what we're working with and working towards, so next season will be exciting!"
The breakthrough of Tommy Doyle
Big things are expected of our young midfielder who will be keen to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, the legendary Mike Doyle, after signing his first professional contract in October.
He overcame an injury at the start of last season but was back to his best for Paul Harsley’s side, setting up the first goal in their 3-1 win over Swansea Under 23s on the final day of the season.
The 18-year-old says he didn’t want last season to end after a rich vein of form on the home stretch, but he has grabbed some well-earned minutes on our Asia Tour and will be raring to go when the new season kicks off.
Fighting on three fronts
With three different trophies to pursue, the new season offers up an exciting prospect of silverware for our Young Blues.
In the EFL Trophy, Crewe Alexandra, Tranmere Rovers and Rochdale were all dispatched en route to a quarter-final exit away to Sunderland last season.
And we will once again face Rochdale in this season’s competition as well as fellow League One outfit Bolton Wanderers and League Two’s Bradford City in Group F.
We will need to be at our best to reach the knockout stages, but the chance to take some notable scalps and a trip to Wembley in April 2020 remain appetising prospects, nonetheless.
Focusing on European competition, last season’s group stage exit in the UEFA Youth League is something Paul Harsley will be looking for his team to improve on.
But after reaching the semi-final two years ago before facing eventual winners Barcelona, the Young Blues know that they are more than capable of going the distance on the continent.