Man City stays in hunt for quadruple after big FA Cup win
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Pep Guardiola dismissed as “fantasy” the notion of his Manchester City players winning the quadruple this season.
It’s certainly a long shot but, on current form, it’s hard to see how or when they’ll next be beaten.
City swept past fellow English Premier League team Burnley 5-0 in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, extending its run of wins to eight in all competitions. In that streak, the team has 33 goals and has not conceded a goal in the last six games — a first under Guardiola.
Kevin De Bruyne scored one goal — a powerful strike from the edge of the box — and had a hand in two others, with Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, and Sergio Aguero scoring along with an own-goal.
“Who is going to stop them winning everything if they are in that mood?” Burnley manager Sean Dyche asked.
City is second in the Premier League, four points behind Liverpool, and into the final of the English League Cup against Chelsea on Feb. 24. It also is through to the last 16 of the Champions League and was handed a favorable match against German outsider Schalke.
Guardiola is managing to rotate his squad for games in this fixture pileup without his starting team losing any of its fluidity. City’s bench against Burnley, for example, contained Aguero, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, and Leroy Sane. The latter two weren’t even needed as City made it 108 goals in 36 games for the season, an average of exactly three per match.
“Everyone has been involved this month. Everybody plays,” Guardiola said. “All together, we can achieve it, arriving at the latter stages (of the season) in the right moment. It’s the only way I understand when you are in four competitions.”
The FA Cup is the only domestic competition Guardiola has yet to win in England, after capturing the Premier League and League Cup last season. An embarrassing fifth-round loss to third-tier Wigan was one of City’s few low points last season and Guardiola is taking the FA Cup seriously this time around.
“I’m really pleased, for the commitment and the professionalism,” the Spanish coach said. “We have a lot of games, not just in our legs, but in our minds.”
De Bruyne, who missed most of the first half of the season after suffering two knee injuries, was hugely impressive in his third start in the space of a week. The Belgium playmaker wants to play as often as possible to improve his match sharpness and he appears to be getting back to his best.
“It’s not easy for players when they’ve been a long time injured, for the rhythm, for the pace,” Guardiola said. “You can believe you are ready because you train but you need time. That is why we try to handle the minutes.
“But we know what Kevin is and we need him. He is clever, he saw passes, he is so aggressive in his game. That is why he helped us a lot.”