The match at the Etihad Stadium finished 0-0 but City progressed courtesy of a 5-0 win in Lisbon the month before. Playing in defence, Egan-Riley calls it “one of the best nights of my life” but he only managed another four minutes in blue-and-white colours – a cameo against Newcastle United – before leaving Pep Guardiola’s outfit and joining Burnley. He could not break into their first team either under Vincent Kompany, forcing the 20-year-old to seek out regular football. He’s found that at Hibs, starting the past four cinch Premiership matches and becoming a fans’ favourite already in midfield. While Leith is a world away from the Champions League, Egan-Riley is just happy to be on the pitch.
“That was probably one of the best nights of my life,” recalled Egan-Riley when asked about his first full City match. “I was buzzing to play in the Champions League. I played right-back that night, I had a few tackles. Near the end of the game, I think I did a Cruyff turn, passed it to John Stones, he megged someone and we got out of it and the crowd started clapping. After the game Scott Carson came to me and said, 'CJ, don't ever do that again' because we almost lost the ball, it was risky. The type of player I am, I don't like just getting rid of the ball for no reason."
Hibs have benefitted from his presence in midfield. Alongside fellow January arrival James Jeggo, they have given the team some much-needed ballast. Rangers stormed them, however, ten days ago at Easter Road with a 4-1 win and it doesn’t get any easier on Saturday with a trip to Celtic Park. Egan-Riley is far from fazed by the prospect. “I just want to play in the best stadiums with the best crowds and atmospheres,” he said. “This will be one of them so looking forward to it. These are the games I came here to play in, against the best teams, where the crowds are, there there’s eyes on you. And where you can really show what you can do. That’s what I want to do this weekend.”
Egan-Riley’s parent club Burnley have been keeping tabs on his progress. When he returns to Turf Moor in the summer, it is likely they will be a top-flight English club again, 19 points clear of third place at the summit of the Championship. He aspires to get to that level once again. “They’re still giving me little tips from what they’ve seen, things I can be doing, things I still need to work on,” he revealed. “And I’m like a sponge, I’m trying to take in everything I can and implement it to my game.”
This weekend is big for the Clarets, who take on Man City in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Egan-Riley has plenty of skin in the game. Celtic v Hibs is at 3pm, City v Burnley at 5.45pm. “I’m backing us this weekend, for sure,” smiled Egan-Riley. “The Burnley one is going to be tough, going to City.”