Although there are still twelve games left in the Premier League season, the next stretch for Manchester City and Pep Guardiola is their most important by far. In the next three weeks, they have two Premier League games, an FA Cup fifth round game, the first leg of their Round of 16 Champions league fixture against Schalke, and the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea. This is a brutal schedule for any club, and the fact that each game matters as much as it does will put a lot of stress and wear and tear on the City lineup regulars. This string of games is especially tricky given the fact that the other club battling for the top spot in the Premier League, Liverpool, only has four games with fewer stakes than City. Because Liverpool is already out of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, they do not have as many games to play, giving them a major advantage to be fresher for the Premier League games.
The one advantage City does have in their race for the Premier League title is their squad depth. They have many talented, first-team players that are capable of starting and playing at all positions, and so they should be able to rotate their squad for most of their games. This means that certain players who don’t play as many games will have to step up. Danilo and Oleksandr Zinchenko will have to play crucial minutes at outside back with Benjamin Mendy out on injury, and their ability to not only defend effectively but attack from wide positions will be essential to City’s success. Players who are talented but who have not been featured in the squad as much, such as Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan, and Gabriel Jesus, will play valuable matches in the Premier League during this stretch, and they will surely need to be in top form for City to stay in the title race.
Ironically, the best thing for this team right now might actually be to lose within the next few rounds of the FA Cup. If Manchester City wants to truly compete both for the Premier League title and the Champions League title, they must prioritize those two competitions over the FA Cup. It would be nearly impossible for the Citizens to complete the quadruple, and even though they might have wanted to prioritize the FA Cup over the Carabao Cup, they are already in the Carabao Cup final next week against Chelsea, a team they just destroyed 6-0 in one of the most resounding wins in recent Premier League history. They must strive to achieve at least two cups, with the third being an added bonus, and if they are able to stay in contention for the Champions League and Premier League title, they cannot add any extra minutes for their important players to play in the FA Cup.
In the end, I predict that Manchester City will win two cups. First of all, while I do believe they will make it to the semifinals of the Champions League, I do not think they will have enough to overcome the monsters of Europe who are less concentrated on domestic league titles. I also think that they will indeed get caught out by a weaker side in the FA Cup if they also put out a weaker squad to rest their starters. However, they are in such good form right now coming off of a stellar three-win week against three top-tier opponents in the Premier League, and there is no reason to believe that this form will not continue domestically. While Chelsea will surely be looking for revenge against the Citizens in the Carabao Cup final, I do not believe they will be able to turn the fixture around, meaning that City will win that Cup. I also think that Manchester City will win the Premier League in a thrilling title race. Liverpool’s squad depth is simply not deep enough, and I think they will make a couple more mistakes than City, leaving the title to come back to the reigning champions. Either way, though, the tight title race in the Premier League, the elite stars and teams in the Champions League, and the storylines for the Carabao Cup will make the end of this soccer season not only entertaining for Manchester City fans, but for soccer fans in general.