Tuesday 26 March 2019

'Nearly impossible' to do quadruple, says De Bruyne as City focus on German test

Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne goes through his paces at the City Football Academy, Manchester. Photo: PA
Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne goes through his paces at the City Football Academy, Manchester. Photo: PA

Luke Edwards

Kevin De Bruyne has admitted Manchester City's rivals have worked out how to play against them this season, which makes their progress in all four competitions a far more impressive achievement.

Any talk that City can win the quadruple this season is scoffed at within the club, and manager Pep Guardiola looked away in disgust when the possibility was mentioned ahead of the first leg of their Champions League clash with Schalke.

Yet, while the popular view is that City have not been as commanding, either domestically or in Europe during Guardiola's third season in charge, his team remain in all four competitions and are closer than ever to pulling off something no side in English football has achieved.

It remains unlikely. De Bruyne described the ambition of winning all four trophies available as "nearly impossible" but the Belgium international believes City's success this season is arguably more remarkable because they have suffered more setbacks and been placed under more stress than when winning the Premier League and the League Cup last year.

"When I look at the standard of our performances, I think it's the same as last year," said De Bruyne. "In the league, we have lost a few more games than we did last year, but we are still fighting on all fronts.

"I think other teams figure out what we do, maybe, a little bit better. They maybe also have better squads. We just added one player, the rest is the same team. The way we play is always going to be the same with Pep, we're not going to change. Everybody knows that.

"I don't think there is a lot of difference. We've a lot of points in the league and I think the standard we are setting is still very high, maybe not the same as last year, but maybe we'll win more titles this year. The most important thing is titles. If we win three titles, we will have done better than last year."

City get their first opportunity to win a trophy on Sunday, when the Carabao Cup holders take on Chelsea at Wembley, but they have European issues to resolve first.

City will be strong favourites to progress into the quarter-finals, as Schalke are arguably the weakest side left in the competition. Although they finished second in the Bundesliga last term, they have won just two out of their past 10 games and are now in 14th place.

"I think the goal is not to win the four competitions," De Bruyne said. "The goal is to win every game and then the further you progress. Then if you win against Chelsea on Sunday, you win the competition. To set standards to win all four, that's nearly impossible.

"When we lost to Newcastle [last month], I don't think a lot changed. On the day, we were not good enough. We've had tough games and we've shown we are still fighting to win the league."

De Bruyne has also had plenty of frustration on a personal level after suffering two injuries this season.

"I've been fortunate until now with injuries in my career," he said. "To get two at the start of the season was not nice, but I feel OK. It's been difficult, six months is a long time [to be injured] but I'm feeling better and better, doing better [in games] and I'm happy with that."

For Guardiola, there have been challenges to overcome, but after that shock Newcastle defeat, his players arrive in Germany in good form and good spirits. I believe the team, after three seasons, are doing better things than the first season," he said.

"We've been together a long time and we know each other better.

"But this competition is special, the teams are good, the atmosphere, you have to suffer the bad moments, survive them and in the right moments make the difference.

"We arrive with many dreams in our heads, to make a good game and to bring Schalke back to our stadium. We feel confident, we will try to score goals, that's important - to score a minimum of one goal [away from home]." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Schalke v Manchester City, Virgin Media Sport/BT Sport 2, 8.0

Telegraph.co.uk

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