With an unprecedented quadruple still a possibility for Manchester City, the pressure on Pep Guardiola is intensifying heading into the final two months of the season.
So, as his superstar players head off around the world on international duty, the City manager is ready to switch off.
“This week,” Guardiola said, “I promise I will not think about football. I will not watch games.”
Few would begrudge him the break, with an intense 34-match, four-month stretch -- featuring games every three or four days -- concluding with a 2-0 win over Everton in the FA Cup quarterfinals on Saturday.
The goals came late — through Ilkay Gundogan in the 84th minute and Kevin De Bruyne in the 90th — but there was a certain inevitability about them inside an empty Goodison Park.
“We wanted to keep them uncomfortable … we defended well, didn’t concede space. We played the game we wanted to play,” Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti said. “But they are the best team in the world."
Indeed, Guardiola’s players are sweeping all before them this season, having also reached the final of the English League Cup, the quarterfinals of the Champions League and forged a 14-point lead in the Premier League.
Extra time loomed when Gundogan stooped to head the ball into an empty net after a shot from marauding City defender Aymeric Laporte was tipped onto the bar by goalkeeper João Virgínia.