Liam Delap can get Champions League breakthrough and lethal strike Man City alliance in key year – Alex Brotherton

After enduring a year of persistent injuries and frustration, things are looking up for Manchester City youngster Liam Delap on his 19th birthday.

The highly rated teenage striker made his return to Pep Guardiola’s side after over a year away, making a 15-minute cameo appearance in City’s 4-1 win over Fulham in the FA Cup on Saturday.

It was an encouraging – albeit short – outing for Delap, who looked right at home tussling with the Fulham defenders and making intelligent runs inside the penalty area. He might’ve marked his return with a goal, but he strayed marginally offside when heading home.

Delap will now be looking to kick on, and here’s what we want to see from him over what will be an important next 12 months.

Champions League breakthrough

As we have seen with the rise of Cole Palmer this season, the Champions League is a great stage for academy talents to earn first-team minutes.

Back in October Palmer scored a fantastic goal on his European debut in a 5-1 win at Club Brugge, before making a brief appearance a few weeks later.

While he has played more minutes in the Premier League – largely thanks to the 87 he played against Everton – the Champions League group stages can throw up ‘weaker’ opponents against whom Guardiola is more willing to experiment with his team selections.

The chances are that Delap won’t feature during the knock-out stages of this year’s competition, but making a splash in the group stage next season should definitely be a target.

building bridges

Delap and fellow City youngster James McAtee forged a formidable partnership for the City U23s last season, notching 52 goal contributions between them to help their side win the title.

The pair came on together against Fulham and linked up well on a couple of occasions, showing that they can transfer their on-field chemistry into the first-team if given the chance.

But given that Delap will not be the only striker in the first-team squad next season, he will need to link up with others in his position too.

Whether that’s with new signing Julian Alvarez – Sergio Aguero recently suggested that the Argentine could be used as a wide player, vacating the striker role for Delap – or with Erling Haaland should he arrive, building bridges with his positional rivals will only heighten Guardiola’s already lofty opinion of a “killer”.

Space to improve

Delap already looks to have the finishing abilities of a seasoned Premier League striker and, thanks to his physical stature he has the power and strength to compete with the best defenders already.

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Yet, by his own admission, he is perhaps not what we’ve come to define as the typical City frontman.

“I like to use my strength and size. I’m not what you’d call a nimble, technical player but I’m very competitive,” he said recently.

As we saw during his cameo on Saturday he could perhaps work on his first touch and ball control, both qualities vital for any player hoping to make it in a Guardiola team.

“He (Delap) will dictate to me. The plan depends on his behavior and performance,” Guardiola said after the Fulham win.

Given how quickly the striker has developed over his young career, there’s no reason to doubt that he can make strides over the next 12 months.

What do you think Liam Delap needs to do over the next 12 months? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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