Manchester City’s prospective goalkeeper dilemma at the weekend eased as Zack Steffen was spotted in training on Wednesday.
Steffen had missed the USA’s fixtures this week with a back injury, with the USMNT taking his situation day-by-day, but with Steffen remaining in England all the time. Had he missed the FA Cup clash with Fulham on Saturday, it could have thrown City into something of a goalkeeping crisis, with Ederson potentially unavailable too.
Ederson has been away with Brazil, with them having played their final World Cup qualifier of this round on Wednesday before he and Gabriel Jesus head back to Manchester. Given the three days between games, but significant travel from Brazil to England, City may not have preferred to use Ederson this weekend.
If both senior goalkeepers were unavailable, that could have seen Scott Carson been given just a second City appearance, while there was a new youngster in training as under-18 stopper George Murray-Jones took shots from the first team.
We’ve looked through footage from City training on Wednesday and picked out the talking points.
Steffen eases goalkeeper worries
With Ederson not yet back, City were boosted with Zack Steffen’s presence in training – even though the US were kicking off later on Wednesday night. Steffen has missed all three USMNT fixtures this week as they remain on course for qualification for the World Cup.
If Steffen can take his usual place as cup goalkeeper, shaking off that injury, it would give City a huge boost and allow Ederson more time to recover from his trip to South America.
However, Steffen was not tasked with throwing himself infront of potshots from eager attackers, with Scott Carson and under-18’s stopper George Murray-Jones taking that responsibility.
Six youngsters train
Murray-Jones, a 2021 signing from Southend last summer, is part of the under-18 squad this season, and must have impressed so far as he was called up to senior training this week. Others, including Ciaran Slicker, have usually been given that responsibility, so it’s a good reflection on Murray-Jones to get the chance to impress under the eye of Pep Guardiola. He rose well to keep out a couple of shots from seasoned internationals, earning encouragement from Carson.
Murray-Jones would be unlikely to play against Fulham, but to train is a good experience for the 17-year-old. Other youngsters were spotted in training, however, and may fancy their chances of game-time in the cup.
James McAtee, whose new contract was announced later in the day, looked sharp, while Luke Mbete, Romeo Lavia and Kayky were others in the 24-strong group. Liam Delap was a welcome face, but he’s targeting a return from injury for the under-23s on Monday instead.
Who was missing?
After Aleks Zinchenko returned from his fitness and injury issues recently, City are nearing a full squad. However, Cole Palmer missed out again and he appears to be City’s only injury concern going into the Fulham clash.
That’s assuming Steffen is fit, while Ederson and Jesus are yet to return from Brazil so may not be used against the Championship leaders on Saturday.
Riyad Mahrez was present after his AFCON absence since the new year, with no regulars apparently missing for injury reasons.
McAtee and Cancelo looking good
There was no sign of new signing Julian Alvarez as he remains in Argentina until the summer, but two January signings – of sorts – were in the group and looking sharp.
After Monday’s transfer deadline, City have confirmed new contracts for Joao Cancelo and James McAtee in the two days following. Both looked more than happy to have those deals wrapped up, and they were responsible for some of the best shots in a shooting drill from the edge of the area.
As the squad walked out into the enclosed outdoor pitch at the City Football Academy, John Stones remarked: “it’s been a while since we’ve been in here.” There were also the yellow FA Cup balls in use as the players got to grips with the Miter balls that will be used at the Etihad on Saturday.
In total, 24 players were spotted training on Wednesday:
Carson, Murray-Jones, Steffen; Ake, Mbete, Stones, Dias, Laporte, Walker, Zinchenko, Cancelo; Rodri, Lavia, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Bernardo, McAtee; Sterling, Foden, Mahrez, Grealish, Delap, Kayky
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.