By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – The following are talking points from the weekend’s Premier League and FA Cup action:
QUADRUPLENOT “IMPOSSIBLE” FORCITY
Manchester City remain in real contention for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies but their manager Pep Guardiola said the chance of them achieving that feat is “almost impossible”.
The closest any English club has come to winning all four trophies in a season was Manchester United when they won the Treble – the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup – in 1998-99.
City have already won the League Cup (Carabao Cup) and are in the final of the FA Cup, the quarter-finals of the Champions League and are two points behind Liverpool in the Premier League with a game in hand.
The quadruple would be an incredible achievement but it is surely not as far-fetched as Guardiola is suggesting.
The Spaniard’s team will start as strong favourites against Watford in the FA Cup final. They will also expect to beat Tottenham Hotspur over two-legs to reach the last four of the Champions League and, while there are six games to go, they have the destiny of the Premier League title in their own hands.
SIGNS OF LIFE IN FA CUPAFTERWATFORDWIN
There is no doubt that the FA Cup is no longer the competition it once was, with the dominance of the Premier League and Champions League pushing the domestic knockout competition well down the list of priorities for clubs.
But Watford’s exhilarating 3-2 extra-time comeback win over Wolverhampton Wanderers at Wembley on Sunday was a sign that, at least in the latter stages, the Cup can still deliver drama and excitement.
It helped that both teams have little at stake in the league — neither are in relegation trouble and while both are in contention for Europa League places, that wasn’t temptation enough for either manager to field weakened sides.
That really is the problem with the FA Cup – too many teams treat the competition as a chance for their back-up and fringe players to get a game.
Sunday was the perfect storm — two closely-matched teams who have had good seasons and who would be delighted with a trophy, going all out for victory.
What a pity that is so rare.
LIVERPOOLDON’T LOOKLIKE ‘BOTTLERS’
The weight of expectation on Liverpool to deliver their first top flight league title since 1990 coupled with the memory of their collapse in 2014, has led to a narrative around whether Juergen Klopp’s side have the mental strength to go all the way.
Friday’s away game at relegation-threatened Southampton stood at 1-1 with ten minutes to go — exactly the kind of situation where panic might set in.
But goals from Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson gave the Reds a 3-1 win which returned them to the top of the table.
Given Klopp’s side have lost just once in 33 Premier League games this season it is quite odd that some still wonder if they have the strength of character to finish the season strongly.
With Huddersfield Town and Fulham already down, the final relegation slot is currently occupied by Cardiff City who are five points adrift of the safety zone.
Southampton, Brighton & Hove Albion, Newcastle United and Burnley are all still looking down nervously wondering if Neil Warnock’s side are capable of a late season rally.
Cardiff are at Burnley on Saturday in what has long looked like a crunch game, although the Clarets have moved up to 14th thanks to wins over Wolves and Bournemouth.
But if the South Wales side can get three points at Turf Moor, they could ensure a nervy end to the season for their rivals.
DRAMA TO COME IN PROMOTIONRACE
Norwich City have a seven point lead at the top of the second-tier Championship but expect a real battle for the other two promotion slots.
With six games to go, Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United and Leeds United are scrapping for the second automatic promotion spot while familiar names West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa look set for playoff places.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge)