City's quadruple dream starts to look possible

Reuters
Laporte's arrival ahead of Wednesday's transfer deadline would be a welcome boost for Pep Guardiola as he ponders how to martial his resources on four fronts.
Reuters
AFP

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup fourth-round match against Cardiff City at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on January 28, 2018.

For all Pep Guardiola's insistence that the quadruple represents an impossible dream, Manchester City has never been better placed to win all four trophies in one season. A further boost to its chances should be delivered this week with British media reporting that City will break its own transfer record by paying Athletic Bilbao 57 million pounds (US$80 million) for Aymeric Laporte.

The Frenchman, who would be eligible for the UEFA Champions League, is considered one of Europe's most promising defenders and would provide cover at left back, where City has been weakened by injury, or at the heart of the back four.

Laporte's arrival ahead of Wednesday's transfer deadline would be a welcome boost for Guardiola as he ponders how to martial his resources on four fronts.

That task is made much easier by City's 12-point lead in the English Premier League which it is on course to win in record time, well ahead of the Manchester United team of 2000-01 which did so with five games to spare.

City is also well placed on the other three fronts with a final berth secured against Arsenal in the League Cup, a comfortable-looking UCL last-16 tie against Basel coming up and a place booked in the FA Cup fifth round.

The best measure of City's progress is that two years ago it also went into February contesting on four fronts, although six points adrift in the EPL.

Determined to make up ground, and with a UCL tie coming up, manager Manuel Pellegrini played a weakened side in the FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea, which City lost 1-5.

Remained strong

Although Guardiola also rotated in City's fourth-round tie at Cardiff on Sunday, starting Sergio Aguero on the bench, City's side remained strong with man of the season Kevin De Bruyne directing operations in midfield and Raheem Sterling up front. Aguero was sent on when Leroy Sane was injured.

Predictably, Guardiola used the German winger's likely absence over the next few weeks to deflect attention away from quadruple talk.

"I do not have enough players, I have players out injured. It is impossible," said the Spaniard, who twice won variations of the treble with Barcelona.

Only one British team, Glasgow Celtic in 1967, has won all four major trophies in one season, but others have gone close.

Liverpool bagged the League, European Cup and League Cup in 1984 while United secured an even more illustrious treble of UCL, EPL and FA Cup in 1999.

Eight years later Chelsea competed on all four fronts until May 1 when Liverpool knocked it out in the UCL semifinals. The Blues went on to win both domestic cups and finished second in the EPL.

City looks on course to better that and its former England defender Joleon Lescott is among those who think it can. "If anyone can, they can," he told the BBC. "If they get some luck, they could do it."

Just don't mention it to Guardiola.


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