Eric Garcia Manchester CityGetty

Personality, poise and perfect positioning - Man City’s teen sensation Eric Garcia ready for Champions League

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola doesn't hand out appearances to academy players for the sake of it.

Just ask Phil Foden.

The 19-year-old midfielder is one of the most exciting young talents in English football but has played just 10 minutes in the Premier League so far this season.

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Foden still has to prove he deserves to be picked ahead of David Silva or Ilkay Gundogan if he is to play regularly.

The same is true for Eric Garcia and his fellow teenage centre-back Taylor Harwood-Bellis as they try to establish themselves at the Etihad.

However, with City's defensive uncertainty again exposed in Saturday’s 3-1 victory at Everton, the two rookies are arguably in a better position than Foden to stake a claim for more game time.

And Garcia certainly looks the best bet to crack the starting line-up first.

The 18-year-old made his Premier League debut earlier this month, albeit not in the most pressurised situation, with City already leading 7-0 against Watford.

However, he still looked right at home in his new surroundings and he turned in another composed display just three days later, in the Carabao Cup victory at Preston, alongside Harwood-Bellis at the heart of the City defence.

Garcia's seamless adaptation is the reason why Guardiola would have no problem now utilising the Spaniard in the Champions League – even though it is the trophy that the club’s hierarchy covet more than any other.

“They can play,” Guardiola said of Garcia and Harwood-Bellis ahead of Tuesday’s Group C clash with Dinamo Zagreb. “There are moments when we can use them, no doubt about it.”

Eric Garcia Manchester City PS

With only one game gone – the seemingly toughest match of the group, away to Shakhtar Donetsk – qualification will not be taken for granted. But that won’t stop changes being made if they are needed.

City had seemed to have tightened up at the back since their surprise 3-2 defeat at Norwich in mid-September – conceding just once in their four matches since.

However, in Saturday's win at Goodison Park, Everton had eight attempts on target – the most any side has managed against City since Guardiola took charge in 2016.

With Aymeric Laporte out until at least the New Year, John Stones missing until after the international break and Vincent Kompany long gone, Guardiola has turned to midfielder Fernandinho as an emergency centre-back.

The Brazilian himself has admitted to having concerns about his suitability to the position, particularly when City come up against fast, counter-attacking sides.

And, while he looked comfortable in easy wins at Shakhtar and Watford, he had a far tougher time of it at Goodison Park, where the height and physicality of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison caused plenty of problems.

Garcia, on the other hand, has been praised for his understanding of the role of centre-back.

Prised from Barcelona's La Masia Academy more than two years ago, he is street-wise beyond his years, playing the game "like he is 24 or 25", according to his manager.

He reads the play well, assessing danger quickly, and positions himself perfectly on the pitch, as he is acutely aware of what is required of a defender who has to maintain a high line while at the same time remaining wary of the threat of long balls in behind the backline.

In possession, he is unflustered, confident in bringing the ball forward, playing short passes in tight situations or sweeping out longer passes to switch the play.

Garcia has one assist already from the Carabao Cup victory over Preston – although that had more to do with Raheem Sterling’s driving run from close to the halfway line rather than the 10-yard pass into him.

Still, what has been most impressive about the Spaniard is his maturity.

A natural leader of City and Spain’s youth teams, he has moved up to Guardiola's senior squad unafraid to offer instruction to his more illustrious team-mates or approach Guardiola with tactical insight, as he did regarding Watford’s set-up ahead of City’s 8-0 victory over the Hornets.  

Eric Garcia Pep Guardiola Manchester City PS

“He’s so smart, so intelligent,” the City boss said before the game against Dinamo. “His physicality is not so, so strong, but he resolves the situation by thinking.

“I like to work with smart people, intelligent people. He is one of them. I can count on him. He has shown me an incredible personality.”

Dinamo will not be under-estimated – their stunning 4-0 victory over Serie A side Atalanta perfectly illustrated the threat they carry in attack.

However, Garcia’s game may actually be even more suited to the more measured style of football in Europe than the organised chaos of the Premier League.

At six foot (1.83 metres), and still relatively slender, he would arguably be tested more by the physicality of Wolves, who visit the Etihad at the weekend.

The Champions League could, therefore, be the ideal environment for Garcia to further cut his teeth.

Guardiola has previous in this regard too, having given Foden his first City start in the continental competition.

The England Under-21 international could also feature against Dinamo but whatever his decision on Tuesday night, the City boss wants all of his youngsters to know that they are very much part of his future plans.

“We want these players to stay here 10 years, 12 years, and make a career,” Guardiola said. “There is a time when these young players will arrive. I promise you. The next step is for them.”

Dinamo should certainly be Garcia's next step.