Reigning player of the season Stephen Ireland has given the UAE advanced warning of the quality of some of City’s youngsters.
Ireland is one of the leading candidates to captain a mix and match Blues side this evening in front of a capacity crowd at Zayed Sports City. It is a game being streamed live on www.mcfc.co.uk
But the midfielder believes that no one should underestimate the quality of a team that is minus most of the big name, big money signings.
“Our youths and reserves are good,” he declared after a signing session in a local shopping mall that attracted a couple of hundred excited locals and travelling City fans.
“There are a lot of good players here and they younger players are strong as a unit having played a lot together in the past. This game is a great chance for them to stake their claims for the first-team and show the manager and everyone watching what they can do.
Some of them won an FA Youth Cup final so they will not be fazed. It is important as a club that we keep producing our own talent as we have done for the past ten years or so. You have to have the blend right.
The Blues are likely to face a youthful looking UAE national side too after the hosts failed to make this summer’s World Cup finals.
The majority of the UAE side who take to the Zayed Sports City pitch will come from the ranks of the U20 team that reached the quarter-finals of their World Cup in Egypt last month, rather than the senior team.
New coach, Srecko Katanec, will using the match tonight as an opportunity to blood more players.
“We plan to field a young team, at least eight of them, as this is an excellent opportunity and a fantastic incentive for them to play against a side like City,” he said.
“These are the kind of games where we can try out new combinations and provide the opportunities for the younger players.”
The game has caught the imagination of the locals and ex-pats in the region. Billed as ‘Our country versus Our City’, all the available 25,000 tickets have been sold leaving some fans searching in vain for spares.
Although the stadium has a total capacity of 45,000 numbers have been pegged back for a reason.
“This is a test event for the Club World Cup,” explained Thomas Gurtner the match director.
“As the nominated Fifa test fixture, we are applying systems for the first time in preparation for the Club World Cup. Zayed Sports City has been limited to a capacity for these reasons, and we’re fully sold out and expecting a great game.”