I’ve been trying not to get too excited about the thought of Manchester City winning the quadruple – in fact I’ve done my best not to even talk about it much until now.
I know City boss Pep Guardiola is the same. We saw that last week when his defender Oleksandr Zinchenko referred to them doing a clean sweep, and Pep completely dismissed it a few minutes later.
Pep was right to do that. Of course City will believe they can win all four trophies, and there are some reasons why this year in particular they have a very good chance – but whether they do it or not should not define their season.
It is important to keep the focus on each individual competition. If the quadruple itself becomes the goal then there’s a danger that damage could be done if they lose in one of the domestic cups or go out of the Champions League.
As soon as the quadruple dream dies, this could go from feeling like a sensational season to just a very good one – by City’s high standards anyway – with prizes still to be won.
It’s pretty clear they are going to win the Premier League, which is always an outstanding achievement.
But after the levels they have reached over the course of the past few months, and the position they are in now, just winning that on its own would be a disappointment.
Snapshot of the top of the Premier League: 1st Man City, 2nd Man Utd, 3rd Leicester, 4th Chelsea, 5th West Ham & 6th Tottenham
Five more wins from their final nine games will give Manchester City their third Premier League title in the past four years, regardless of what their rivals do
Why no fans is in City’s favour
The finish line is in sight for City, and they could not really be in a much better position going into this international break.
They will return to action in April with two months of the season to go, their quadruple hopes intact and much of their remaining task laid out in front of them.
Man City’s route to winning each knock-out competition
Competition QF SF Final
Carabao Cup Tottenham
FA Cup Chelsea Leicester/Southampton
Champions League Borussia Dortmund Bayern Munich/PSG Real Madrid/Liverpool/Porto/Chelsea
Can they go the distance? Well, right now, they have a few things in their favour.
I know City have had to cope without their home support at Etihad Stadium but I do think the lack of opposition fans helps them at away games.
Usually they would be pumped up when City are in town, and for me, empty grounds makes certain trips feel far less daunting – for example we’ve already seen them go to Anfield in February, and win for the first time in 18 years.
Man City’s FA Cup win at Everton on Saturday was their 17th away game without defeat – a new club record
City’s FA Cup win at Everton on Saturday was their 17th away game without defeat – a new club record
As far as future tests go, they might not even have to play Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park in the Champions League quarter-finals, much less face their famous Yellow Wall of fans.
City have adapted their style to be more possession orientated, and without a crowd it is harder to knock them out of their rhythm. It seems they can go anywhere and play that way – get on the ball and keep it, and wear down the opposition.
They are also in the fortunate position of not having any injuries – at the moment anyway.
It’s quite unheard of to have a full squad to choose from at this stage of a campaign, and what I like most is that they have not just kept everyone fit, Pep has kept all his players happy too.
Everyone is playing their part, and it doesn’t seem to matter who he picks. Whoever comes into the team, it doesn’t seem to affect their overall performance.
Will a rest help City, or hamper them?
Whatever happens next, Guardiola’s side have done brilliantly to put themselves in this position, and they deserve great credit for being so good so consistently, despite a relentless schedule.
This international break is the first time in months that they have had a chance to take a bit of a breather, but I don’t think they will want one.
Since losing to Tottenham on 21 November, City have won 29 of their next 33 games, drawing three and losing one
Since their defeat at Tottenham on 21 November, City have won 29 out of their 33 games in all competitions, drawing three and losing one
City have built up so much momentum by playing and – mostly – winning twice a week every week, that a pause could hamper them now, not help them.
When you are on a run like they are, you don’t feel tired, and you don’t want to stop.
For their South American players like Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, who have had their country’s World Cup qualifiers postponed, it is the chance to take a complete break.
That might sound good on the face of it after such a busy few weeks, but I know from experience there’s a fine line between a rest that refreshes you, and having too much time off so you lose your sharpness when you come back.
That will be one of the worries for Pep now, but plenty of his players will still be going away and of course there is also the risk of injury, or illness.
Everything is pretty much perfect for City right now, from the team’s form and focus to their physical fitness, but there is the risk of losing some of that over the next fortnight.
City don’t need to fear anyone now
It is amazing how far City have come since the last international break in November.
They went into it in 10th place in the table and lost their first game back at Tottenham, but since then they have played 33 games and won 29 of them.
Their only other defeat in that time came in the Manchester derby earlier this month and it didn’t feel like a significant one because of the cushion they have at the top of the Premier League.
That is just a ridiculous run of results and, the way they are playing, I don’t think City need to fear any of the sides they might face in order to go the distance in every competition.
The Champions League will offer the greatest test, of course. Against Dortmund they face two of the best young talents in Europe in Erling Braut Haaland and their former forward Jadon Sancho, who will have a point to prove. I still think City will get past them though.
Then would come Bayern Munich or Paris St-Germain in the semi-finals. I’ve watched Bayern almost as much as City recently and they are brilliant going forward. If they do play each other, it would be the tie of the season – I just hope we get the chance to see it.