Another game, another joyous celebration of City's magnificent potential. This was wonderful stuff, far from perfect - no preseason friendlies are, but it felt significant. Yet another batch of our youngsters shone, and it came only days after witnessing the likes of Maffeo, Garcia, Humphreys and others impress against Adelaide. Garcia, Iheanacho, Denayer, Lopes, Barker, Evans, Horsfield and Unal all found game time tonight, and all were good, some brilliant. We started with just the three of them involved - Iheanacho lead the line on his own, excitingly paired with Silva and Sterling in a dynamic, pacy and technical front three. Garcia and Zuculini joined him, lining up alongside Fernando in midfield ahead of an experienced defence of Sagna, Kompany, Mangala and Clichy. And it was great.
What more can we say about Garcia? Impossibly composed, he strode about the pitch, confidently exchanging passes and switching positions with Silva - even dropping deep at times, Pirlo-like. He's growing in stature by the week, and its a fascinating watch. His intense involvement with the first team this summer has surprised me to be honest - it's deserved, but I just didn't expect it. He's so young and even though a year in the EDS does rightly beckon, it's becoming increasingly obvious that he will likely make his full debut at some point this season, and it won't be without merit. Iheanacho too - rested for the previous game, he took this chance clinically. There's so many facets to his game that stand out, not only is he an emphatic finisher as he showed in the second half, racing onto a stray back-pass before coolly placing the ball past the keeper, but he's such a technically accomplished footballer. His pass to Sterling was Silva-like, dropping deep, turning and without hesitance, perfectly lifting the ball over the defence for Sterling to roll the ball past the keeper after two minutes. One assist, one goal. He's surely our third choice striker this season behind Aguero and Bony. His potential is immense.
Zuculini was good, again. He was bright and industrious, and as ever he got forward well. He took up a box-to-box role of sorts, where he worked hard alongside Fernando closing down Roma's midfielders. He kept the ball moving well, and with clear competence - it was another good run out for the likeable Argentinian, hopefully one that will help him secure a more satisfying loan move this term. The second half brought a whole host of changes. Barker was introduced in his favoured left-wing position and Lopes was brought on behind Iheanacho in the no.10 role. To the right of them was Navas, while Nasri and Yaya formed the base of midfield. Horsfield replaced Sagna at right-back, with Denayer lining up alongside his compatriot, Vincent Kompany, in the heart of defence, and Kolarov stepping in on the left. Lopes was sharp. He's a talent, clearly. Visibly more mature for his year away with Lille too. For twenty minutes he ran the game before it broke down into a typically disjointed mess, the usual stuff for a friendly, but it was encouraging nonetheless. There's a real drive to his game, and he's lightning too. He nearly scored after excellently exchanging passes with Navas, drawing a good save from the keeper. He's a wonderful little footballer and he'll be effective this season. There's a directness to his game that makes him a pretty terrifying prospect. Add his pace to Sterling's, with Silva pulling the strings and it becomes pretty easy to imagine how he could win us a few games next year, be it from the bench or even in the starting line up.
Barker shone sporadically, fading a little towards the end, looking completely knackered if i'm being honest - but before that there was huge glimpses of his potential. There was one particular moment where he combined with Lopes that was simply majestic, exchanging passes with the Portugese forward after beautifully spinning away from an onrushing Roma defender. He has all the ability in the world - all he needs is experience. A loan surely beckons, and after that? Well, the sky's the limit. Horsfield was good, again. He's a surprisingly effective right-back, despite preferring a midfield role. He was tidy in possession, and he burst forward effectively whenever he could. Alongside Lopes, he confidently dispatched his penalty in the successful shoot-out too. Denayer was as cool and as confident as ever. He's some player, and though he didn't have much to do there was the odd moment where he showed his natural self-belief, elegantly strolling out of defence and bringing the ball into midfield. Defensively he was solid - rightfully he'll challenge for a first team spot this year. Evans and Unal were both late substitute appearances, with the young Turkish forward a little isolated as the game ground down to a relative halt. He's a bullish young lad though, eager and positive with his running. It's just a shame he didn't get on when we were on the front foot. Evans had little to do, truth be told, in an unfamiliar centre-back role.
All in all it was impressive stuff, and comforting too. At the end of last season there was claims that City's ageing squad would hold us back. If there was ever any genuine worry that this would be the case, then those fears are surely well on their way to being eradicated before they've even been given a chance to fester. It's a squad brimming with hunger, youth and potential. Sterling will be joined by Delph, and Iheanacho and Unal will add energy, ideas and potential up front. Add Denayer and Lopes to this, and consider the promise shown by Barker, Humphreys, Maffeo and Garcia amongst others, not to mention the newly acquired Patrick Roberts, and all of a sudden a very different picture is painted. This is an exciting time to be a City fan, and it's only just the beginning. Roll on Friday.