Another win, another step closer to an unprecedented quadruple for Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s side have secured a place in their second cup final of the season thanks to a 1-0 win over fellow Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion, setting up a date with either Wolverhampton Wanderers or Watford on May 18.
City took the lead after just four minutes as Gabriel Jesus capped off a fine team move with a good diving header, but they were made to work hard for their victory from then on.
It was already City’s second game of what is set to be a massively important month for the club’s trophy hopes, with at least seven more games scheduled across three competitions before April is over.
Two Champions League quarter-final ties against Tottenham as well as a league game, a Manchester derby and another semi-final could all come within the next four weeks as City chase history.
But, with the Carabao Cup already secured, could City actually win all four major trophies? Or will they slip up before the season is over?
Read on for three signs they could, and three signs they won’t.
Man City can win the quadruple because…
1. Kevin De Bruyne is back
The main man last season en route to a record-breaking Premier League title win, Kevin De Bruyne has hardly played a part during the current campaign.
The Belgian has struggled with injury problems across 2018/19, but finally looks ready to make his mark for Manchester City. And what a time for it.
For just the second time this season, De Bruyne has been directly involved in two goals in consecutive games, having scored against Cardiff City in midweek and recorded an assist for Jesus’ opener at Wembley on Saturday.
Returning to his place in the midfield trio, De Bruyne’s arrival has added a different kind of creativity from deep for Guardiola’s side and will be vital in certain games where City face a stern defence.
It has also seen Bernardo Silva pushed back to the wing, where he can cause more danger for opponents in what is turning into a great personal season for the Portuguese international.
2. Fortune is on their side
Being a good side with good players is not enough. In order to win trophies, you have need an ounce of luck, too.
And that’s exactly what Man City appear to be enjoying of late, if their FA Cup semi-final is anything to go by.
32: Walker and Alireza are both booked. Looked like the opposing defender put his head into our man…
📻 Listen Live ➡️ https://t.co/kvZSogl4rM
— Brighton & Hove Albion ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) April 6, 2019
With half-an-hour gone, Kyle Walker was understandably annoyed by a challenge made on him by Alireza Jahanbakhsh after the ball had gone out of play. The Iranian had, accidentally, stamped on Walker’s thigh not long after the City man had looked unable to continue through injury.
Walker reacted by going head-to-head with Jahanbakhsh, eventually making the widely prohibited forward motion in the direction of the Brighton player. Both players received a yellow card from Anthony Taylor, though Walker’s was reviewed by VAR for a potential red.
Fortunately for Walker and City, VAR agreed with Taylor’s initial decision, potentially helped by Jahanbakhsh’s lack of reaction to the incident. Had the Iranian been more dramatic in seeking punishment, Walker could have been off.
City have also been on the receiving end of bad calls this season, but it appears the tide – and their luck – has turned.
3. Aymeric Laporte is the new Vincent Kompany
Since Manchester City were taken over in 2008, one man has personified the club, turning himself into a modern legend.
Vincent Kompany has been at the heart of most of City’s success in the years since, but injury problems have seen him take a more peripheral role over the past few years with the Citizens yet to truly replace him.
But it looks like they finally have. Aymeric Laporte had a wonderful game against Brighton on Saturday, showing just how important a modern centre-back can be.
Helping City take control of the game early on, Laporte played a beautiful long ball out to Bernardo Silva, who neatly chested it on to De Bruyne.
The Belgian then unleashed a lovely cross for Jesus to bury with a diving header. While De Bruyne will be rightly hailed for his assist, nothing should be taken away from Laporte’s ball to start the play.
He also showed why Man City forked out £57m for the centre-back last January, as he produced a vital goal-line clearance 10 minutes into the second half when it looked like Glenn Murray needed only the faintest of touches of the ball to equalise.
It helps that Laporte was partnered by Nicolas Otamendi, who also had a commanding game in defence. But at 24 years old, the French-born centre-back can be the man to emulate Kompany at City.
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Man City won’t win the quadruple because…
1. Weaknesses at full-back
Manchester City have a wonderful squad with quality in spades in attack. But there are one or two positions which could prove costly in the race for the quadruple.
Once against Man City appear to be suffering in the full-back department despite having spent over £100m on personnel to stock it over the past two seasons in those positions.
Against Brighton, City started with Walker and Benjamin Mendy, with the latter only just having come back from yet another long-term injury problem. Mendy was arguably only playing because Oleksandr Zinchenko had picked up an injury in midweek, and the Frenchman looked nowhere near ready to compete at the top level.
That isn’t to say Mendy was back, but the left-back looked off the pace at times and his final decision was poor, either drilling in crosses far too powerful for a teammate to realistically reach, or missing the pass altogether.
The problems were made worse by Walker’s yellow card and injury in the first half, forcing Guardiola to bring on Danilo, Manchester City’s only fully fit full-back.
With at least nine games coming up before the end of the season, with another potential three added in the Champions League, City need their squad at full-strength and cannot afford to be let down at full-back again.
2. The goals are drying up
Yes, Manchester City have scored a ridiculous amount of goals this season, breaching 5+ on nine occasions, but Guardiola’s side have looked fairly toothless in front of goal recently by their own high standards.
Man City 1-0 Brighton FT
Pass accuracy: 89%-75%
Chances created: 10-4
Man City take one step further to the quadruple as they reach the FA Cup Final. pic.twitter.com/QGeo0hqepD
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 6, 2019
When Jesus put them 1-0 up inside four minutes against Brighton on Saturday, all but the most optimistic Seagulls fan expected the game to be over with City marching on via a handful of goals.
But City rarely looked like adding another until late in the second half, with Brighton defending particularly well to limit the big chances.
Thirteen shots were had by City across the 90 minutes but only three of those hit the target, including Jesus’ opener, while a further four were blocked by diving Brighton players.
While Brighton were unable to capitalise on City’s wastefulness in front of goal, other teams may do so in bigger games. And City have the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United soon to come.
3. Ill discipline
No team is perfect, no matter how good they are, and it appears Manchester City have a penchant for fouls.
The Citizens conceded 13 fouls in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday, eight more than their opponents Brighton.
Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte and Raheem Sterling were the biggest culprits, with two each, making them the only players on the pitch to record more than one.
While there are smart fouls in the middle of the pitch in order to stop attacks, City are toeing the line between savvy gamesmanship and giving opponents dangerous opportunities from set-plays.
Brighton did manage to test the City defence at times with set pieces and other teams will try, too. Guardiola’s side just need to ensure they don’t give them too many chances.