Pep Guardiola realises he cannot stop his Manchester City players dreaming about winning the quadruple, but the City boss will urge them to think game by game in their pursuit of an unprecedented clean sweep.
City, who have already won the Carabao Cup this season, face key games in the next six days in the other three competitions they can win. The reigning champions can return to the top of the Premier League with victory over Cardiff at the Etihad Stadium tonight. They then face Brighton in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday, and Tottenham in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final next Tuesday.
Guardiola said: “I’m not in the minds of my players and the fans to tell them what to think. If they want to dream and think about winning everything, I’m not a guy to say anything.
“Of course, we are there, but I said to the players: ‘Forget about it, don’t think too much. In one week or three days we can lose all three titles, that’s the reality’.
I know in your heads we can win all the titles, but for now it’s Cardiff, then recovery and go to spend four or five days in London to prepare for Brighton or Tottenham’.
Guardiola is repeatedly asked by the media about City’s quadruple prospects, but he continues to play them down.
He said: “I said many times ask me at the end of April.
“Why should you [talk about] the quadruple when in this country — a legendary country — it has never happened before. Legendary teams like Liverpool, the period [of Manchester United] with Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Arsene Wenger with Arsenal, no one did it. So why should we do it?”
City are involved in a tight battle with Liverpool for the Premier League title. The Reds claimed a vital win with a last-minute goal against Tottenham on Sunday. It was their third success of the season as a result of a goal in the 90th minute or later.
Once, maybe it is luck, or the second time it is luck, but to happen three or four or five times, it is because they have something special.
“I’m not wasting my time thinking: ‘They were lucky here, there and everywhere’. That doesn’t give you an extra point.”
Sergio Aguero will miss the game through injury. The Premier League’s top scorer with 19 goals this season was substituted with a muscle problem in Saturday’s victory over Fulham and will not be risked at the Etihad Stadium tonight. City hope the Argentinian will be fit to return for Saturday’s FA Cup game and next week’s Champions League quarter-final first-leg at Tottenham.
Meanwhile, an independent charity that supports football referees at every stage of the game has accused Cardiff manager Neil Warnock of “desensitising” the abuse and assault of grassroots referees with his repeated criticism of match officials.
Warnock was incensed by several decisions during Cardiff’s 2-1 home defeat by Chelsea on Sunday, most notably Blues defender Cesar Azpilicueta’s equaliser from an offside position.
Speaking after the match, Warnock said the Premier League was the best in the world but had “probably the worst officials”.
The Football Association is understood to be assessing his post-match comments, but the 70-year-old will not be punished for his silent protest after the final whistle, when he stood in front of referee Craig Pawson and his assistants, glaring at them and shaking his head.
In a press conference in Cardiff yesterday to preview his side’s visit to Manchester City, Warnock picked up where he left off on Sunday.
Again, he was highly critical of Mike Riley, the head of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, describing him as “a manufactured referee... almost like a robot” who “knows everything about the rules” but does not understand the game.
“A lot of referees are like Mike Riley and that’s why I think we have gone backwards,” he said.
The hugely experienced manager also then joked that he had threatened to report his wife Sharon to the FA after she said she would not have stopped him if he had wanted “to thump” Pawson.