City marches on but Pep rules out four trophies

Reuters
The Premier League, which it leads by 11 points, already looks wrapped up, while City is in the last four of a competition it is looking to win for the third time in five seasons.
Reuters
Reuters

Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo saves from Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez in the penalty shootout during their English League Cup quarterfinal at the King Power Stadium in Leicester on December 19, 2017. City won 4-3.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been doing his best to keep a lid on the hoopla surrounding his rampant charges but even he could not have expected to hear the first mention of the word "quadruple" before Christmas.

After his second-string side battled into the English League Cup semifinals on Tuesday with a 4-3 shootout win at Leicester City following a 1-1 draw after extra time, the Spaniard was asked if his team could win four trophies this season.

Guardiola's withering look said it all. "Forget about it. That is not going to happen," he told Sky Sports in a manner that brooked no argument.

That was all very well but the dazzling way his team is playing continues to make the fanciful seem possible.

The Premier League, which it leads by 11 points, already looks wrapped up, while City is now in the last four of a competition it is looking to win for the third time in five seasons at Wembley in February.

If it keeps playing the brand of football that has looked the most scintillating in Europe then triumphs in the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup do not seem outlandish possibilities either.

City's hierarchy certainly believe it is possible with chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak having in the close season broached the possibility of winning the quadruple.

He did not employ a manager who once won six trophies in a season at Barcelona without sky-high, sky blue expectations.

Pep's latest grand experiment is going so sweetly that City has not lost a domestic game since last season's FA Cup semifinal with Arsenal and its only loss anywhere this term was at Shakhtar Donetsk in a dead UCL rubber for it.

On Tuesday's evidence, what must delight Guardiola as much as the breathtaking stuff being played by his A listers is that he appears to be blooding a new generation imbued with toughness as well as real quality who can slot in seamlessly if needed.

Phil Foden, 17, one of the bright young hopes in the English game, 18-year-old Spaniard Brahim Diaz, and local defender Tosin Adarabioyo, 20, all played an admirable part in City's win.

Guardiola's side prevailed after Bernardo Silva had put City ahead before Jamie Vardy equalized with what looked a harshly-awarded penalty in the 7th minute of added time.

After extra time, City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo saved the key Riyad Mahrez penalty to earn the shootout victory.

Reuters

Arsenal's Danny Welbeck scores the only goal against West Ham United during their League Cup quarterfinal at London's Emirates Stadium.

"A lot of young players played. I am so happy for all the players. They showed me very good things," said Guardiola.

When later he was further pressed by reporters about winning four trophies, the Spaniard added: "That's unreal.... In football you drop points, you lose. I am not thinking about titles."

Arsenal is also through to the last four after beating West Ham United 1-0, courtesy of a Danny Welbeck strike shortly before half time.

Manager Arsene Wenger fielded an entirely changed starting 11 from the side that beat Newcastle United at the weekend against David Moyes's Hammers, who have been on a good recent run.

On Wednesday, Jose Mourinho's Manchester United was traveling to Championship high-flyer Bristol City while Chelsea was hosting Bournemouth.

Special Reports
Top