Can Manchester City win the quadruple this season?
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There was much talk of the quadruple last season as Manchester City blew every other team aside in the race for the Premier League title. But an early exit from the Champions League in the quarter-final stage at the hands of Liverpool put end to the discussion. Despite lifting the League Cup in February and ending up with the league title in May, there were feelings in some quarters that the team was capable of much more than was achieved.
This season was supposed to be a chance for Pep Guardiola to attempt that bold challenge. So far, the Sky Blues are making progress just fine. After annihilating Burton Albion 9-0 in the first leg of the semi-final, and booking a place in the final even before the return leg is played, the first trophy of the season is now within reach. Only one of Tottenham and Chelsea stands in the way. But Guardiola's success rate at finals gives a lot of confidence.
A date with Burnley in the fourth round of the FA Cup is the next hurdle in that competition. It will take an upset of immense proportion for Sean Dyche’s men to beat the reigning Premier League champions at the Etihad Stadium. It's almost certain City will win convincingly and progress to the next round. With Liverpool already out, the key contenders again will be Chelsea, Tottenham and either Arsenal or Manchester United. The latter duo will slug it out for a single slot in the next round.
Pitched against any of the managers of these teams, Guardiola will most likely have the upper hand. Maurizio Sarri found out about that at the beginning of his reign when he led Chelsea to a resounding 2-0 loss to the Catalan manager in the Community Shield. Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino is yet to win a single trophy in his managerial career. That inexperience is a huge factor that can count against him in a final situation.
Either of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Unai Emery will find it very difficult beating Man City in a final scenario. Although anything can happen in football. But the odds are stacked against them. The bottom line is City has a huge chance of also lifting this trophy.
As for the Premier League title, upstaging Liverpool who holds a four-point lead at the moment will be very difficult. The Reds have been on fire this season. Only a serious capitulation in the coming weeks can hand the advantage back to the reigning champions to retain the title. And that can happen. City has proven before that the team can come back from being even eight points behind to win the league. It happened against Alex Ferguson's United in 2012.
Then there is the biggest one of them all - the Champions League. It's a competition much sought after in the Blue side of Manchester, even when a large section of the club's fans still insist on booing the competition's anthem. But at the management and board level as well as that of the generality of the club's supporters, winning Europe's biggest competition will be an amazing achievement. Guardiola knows that and will put everything into the project.
If the massive investment made on players and the team continues in future, it's almost a given that the trophy will arrive at the Etihad Stadium down the road. But achieving it now will be great for both manager and club. Guardiola last won the trophy while still at Barcelona and will want to prove he can also do it elsewhere. City on its own is due the trophy after conquering the Premier League several times.
A date with arguably the weakest team in the round of 16 is as favorable a draw as the Cityzens could have hoped for. German side Schalke barely squeezed into the round of 16 and was even booed by own fans for a poor showing. Yet, football is not mathematics. Minnows have knocked out giants in competitions before and Schalke are by no means a pushover on the continent.
Beating City could still be a step too far for a side that has struggled home and abroad this term. Progression from here means anything is possible at the later stages of the competition. The crunch tie against Liverpool showed how this City team can rise to the challenge when necessary.
From the beginning of the campaign Guardiola's side has been tipped by many as one of the favourites to win the competition this season. Therefore, achieving that goal will not come as a surprise. That's especially so when European powerhouses like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich are not playing their best football this season. Juventus' loss to a weakened United under José Mourinho as well as Young Boys showed weaknesses. Home and away against Napoli Paris Saint-Germain failed to win and also lost at Anfield.
What that means is that with opponents that are all conquerable, the quadruple is well and truly within reach for the Cityzens. It is understandable if some club faithful are already dreaming of it. But the workload will make very difficult to achieve. It's no surprise that it's a very rare occurrence in the football world.