The Premier League champions have won their last eight games, scoring 33 goals and conceding twice, but talk of winning the lot is far too premature
Pep Guardiola has rather understandably written off Manchester City’s chances of winning the quadruple as “fantasy” but after their 5-0 FA Cup demolition of Burnley on Saturday, the Blues’ ongoing presence in all four competitions is going to play a major part in their chances of success this season.
Liverpool are already out of this particular tournament and Jurgen Klopp’s side will have the opportunity to go further ahead in the Premier League while City are busy disputing the Carabao Cup final.
There is also the prospect of March’s Manchester derby being pushed back until April or even later, given a potential fixture pile-up. How City handle all of these games will make or break them, and their campaign.
It could certainly spell fatigue further down the line and City fans might even be hoping Liverpool beat Bayern Munich so that the Reds cannot concentrate fully on the Premier League title from March on.
However, right now, supporters, players and managers would all rather be in these competitions than out of them and, in that respect, City are in an enviable position.
They will face Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final next month, not long after a presentable-looking Champions League tie with Bundesliga strugglers Schalke.
With Arsenal and Liverpool out of the FA Cup, City can also keep their fingers crossed for a comfortable fifth-round draw.
If they are distractions from the Premier League, they are certainly welcome ones, and with a squad as deep as this, there should be every confidence that they can stay in the fight for a few more weeks or even months yet.
That is how they have got this far, of course. A mixture of young hopefuls and experienced squad players earned them a place in the Carabao Cup final, yet in the FA Cup Guardiola has consistently gone strong.
On Saturday at the Etihad, City’s substitutes had scored 51 goals between them in all competitions this season.
Over the two FA Cup games to date, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and David Silva have not started but Ederson, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus all have, and with Bernardo Silva and the always influential Fernandinho thrown into the mix on Saturday, it shows that Guardiola would rather win this trophy than sit at home and rest up for a Premier League game.
There may be weak spots in some areas of the squad, namely at the base of midfield and at left-back, but when you consider that three of City’s left-sided defenders missed out on Saturday’s squad and they could still call upon Danilo, it is hard to make that case too strongly.
Fernandinho, however, is as close as it comes to irreplaceable in this team and his fitness in the coming months will also prove crucial, so he will have to be managed carefully. As happened at Huddersfield last Sunday, the Brazilian was substituted as soon as City went 3-0 up.
Anyway, what sense in looking too far ahead? This article could have been written a year ago, with City ready for a Carabao Cup final, ready to play Basel in Europe and drawn against Wigan in the FA Cup.
They lost at Wigan, of course, and as soon as Basel were beaten, they faced up to the reality of facing a proper challenge, eventually losing to Liverpool in the Champions League, after a combination of the Reds’ accuracy and the refs’ inaccuracies.
So, for now, all they can do is focus on the challenge at hand.
“We are able to try to win tomorrow, that’s all I can assure you,” Guardiola said on Friday when asked about the prospect of winning the quadruple. “The other is fantasy.”
The Catalan was impressively restrained in his response to a topic that has quickly resurfaced now City are winning again. After all, less than a month ago he was asked whether he should change his entire footballing philosophy on the back of two defeats, at home to Crystal Palace and away to Leicester.
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Those dark days seem a long way off now. After losing at Leicester, City have won eight out of eight in all competitions, scoring 33 goals and conceding just twice, and not since the statement victory over Liverpool on January 3.
If that keep up anything like that form, it could be a very special season indeed.
But there is a long way to go yet. City are still in all four competitions. For now, though, everything else really is fantasy.