Pep Guardiola has warned that no youngsters will be gifted a place in his star-studded Manchester City side.
City are keen for players from their much-vaunted academy to progress to the first team but manager Guardiola has made clear they have to earn the right through hard work.
The highly-rated 18-year-old Phil Foden is set for another opportunity as City, leading 9-0 on aggregate, face Burton in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday. Others that could be included are defenders Philippe Sandler, 21, and Eric Garcia, 18, but the expectations on them are high.
Guardiola said: “I’m pretty sure they are motivated to play in the first team, to play alongside incredible players in competitions and semi-finals. Of course, they are going to be motivated.
“But they have to know how difficult it is to achieve (a place in) the first squad and the first team, not just in Man City but everywhere.
“It is a massive opportunity for them to be close to the first team but it is not easy. We don’t give presents because they are nice or something special. It depends on them.
“They have to show us, they have to play their level. Wednesday is a challenge for them but I’m pretty sure they are going to play good because they can do it.”
Foden has enjoyed increased game time this season but, of his 17 appearances, only six have been starts, with none of them in the Premier League.
The difficulties in progressing in such a powerful squad were behind the decisions of Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz, two other promising academy graduates, to seek opportunities elsewhere.
It is not only youngsters, however, who must live with formidable competition for places.
Centre-back Nicolas Otamendi, 30, made just his eighth Premier League start of the season in Sunday’s 3-0 victory at Huddersfield having previously been a mainstay in the side.
“No, he’s not happy,” Guardiola said. “I don’t have an answer. When he plays he’s happy, when he doesn’t play he’s not happy.
“But it’s not just Otamendi, (it’s) everybody. All of them. I don’t know what I can do but be honest with myself and with them.
“Of course when he doesn’t play he’s not happy. In the end with Nico, I know we can count on him at any time in any situation because he’s an incredible professional and always he’s ready. I’m delighted with him.
“But I can understand him (wanting to play more). I cannot say anything else.”
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