MANCHESTER – Pep Guardiola wants to put talk of a historic quadruple to one side as Manchester City embark upon a season-defining month.
They have eight matches in April, which begin on Wednesday with a Premier League clash with struggling Cardiff at the Etihad Stadium.
Victory over Cardiff will enable City to leapfrog Liverpool and go one point clear at the top as they try to retain the title.
Then attention will turn to the FA Cup semi-final with Brighton at Wembley on Saturday before the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Tottenham next Tuesday.
The games are coming thick and fast and a single defeat could be fatal for their hopes of doing a clean sweep.
Guardiola is a keen student of the game and he recognises the enormity of what his players are trying to achieve.
"From my experience why should you play for the quadruple when it has never happened in this country?” he said.
“Legendary teams like Liverpool in the 1980s, Sir Alex Ferguson’s period at Manchester United, Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Arsene Wenger with Arsenal. Nobody did it. Why should we?
“We can’t forget that even the team that won the treble with Sir Alex Ferguson – an incredible team in 1998/99 – won the league with 79 points.
“In the semi-final of the FA Cup, they had 10 v 11 and Ryan Giggs ran past five or six and in final of the Champions League at the Camp Nou, everyone knows what happened there.
“To win the treble was so tough. They won the Premier League by one point, the Roy Keane red card and Dennis Bergkamp misses the penalty in the cup semi-final, and Bayern hitting the crossbar two times and then United scored with the last two corners (in the Champions League final).
"The spirit and desire to win the treble was there and of course the quality of everybody at United means they did it but it shows how difficult it is the way they won it.”
Win or bust
Guardiola knows the odds are against City winning all four trophies, given the luck required and also the quality of the opposition in the Premier League and Champions League.
“The treble has only happened once in all our lives,” he said.
“My players can think about it but the reality is Cardiff. It’s about winning the game, recovery and then, what’s next. That is the best way.
“When we are at the end of April and I get asked this question I will say yes or no. But today it is far away.”
City have a potential 14 games left this season and something would be riding on all of them.
But Guardiola likes the idea of win or bust, and he believes that mentality has been in place since the turn of the year as they have won 19 of their last 20 matches.
“The players have the conscience that they go into the game knowing that if they lose, it’s finished,” he said.
“That is the best way you have to face. A draw is not enough, you have to win.
“That is what we have done since the Newcastle game. That is the only game we lost in the last 20.
“We don’t select competitions, we try to win every game we play.”
The Premier League’s top scorer, Sergio Aguero, will miss the game with Cardiff after picking up a thigh injury last weekend at Fulham.
But Guardiola is hopeful the Argentine striker will make a quick recovery with so many crucial games on the horizon in the next few weeks.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)