If there is a team in Europe that has strategically planned to be ready physically, mentally and technically for a four-pronged trophy assault, it is Manchester City.
Entering the last 12 weeks of the season they already have one trophy in the cabinet and three more within grasp. The question is will their best laid plans be scuppered by a rash of injuries, or do they have the skill – and perhaps even luck – to avoid injuries whilst continuing to performing at the highest level of intensity.
For many of their players, the prospect of a potential 64 games this season after an extended World Cup run last summer will be as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Winning when it becomes a habit turns into a positive energy, and all of the players in the squad will be looking to make themselves available for selection. Nothing fuels a footballer better than the prospect of a winner’s medal over their neck.
Injuries are, however, an inherent risk and City have already had several high-profile casualties, including John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne all suffering non-contact muscle problems.
This is a likely expression of two factors. Firstly the cumulative load from not only the number of games played this season and at the World Cup, but also the intensity of those minutes. Last season was a canter for City in the Premier League: this season, Liverpool are pushing them all the way.