Unlike American sports teams that only compete for one trophy, almost all soccer clubs around the world enter multiple competitions each year. And, while some trophies carry more weight than others, a trophy is a trophy. All the prominent European leagues have one or even two domestic cup competitions, where teams from tiered professional leagues are put together into one March Madness-style tournament. The ‘treble’ consists of winning the domestic league, the domestic cup and the UEFA Champions League.
Only seven teams have achieved this historic feat, most recently the Barcelona team of 2014–15. No England team has done it other than Manchester United, which famously sank the hearts of Bayern Munich fans with a last-gasp winner to win the Champions League and complete the treble in 1999.
This season, Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City squad have a chance to make history and pull off an unheard-of ‘quadruple.’ Having already won the Carabao Cup, one of England’s cup competitions, Guardiola’s men are still fighting for the other three victories in this season’s final stages. The FA Cup might be their easiest chance when they meet either Watford or Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final in May. The more challenging tasks fall in the Champions League and the English Premier League.
On the Champions league front, City faced Tottenham on Tuesday in the first of its encounters, losing the first leg of their quarterfinal tie, 1–0. But this side is more than capable of overturning the deficit in the second leg at home. If they do, City faces either Juventus or Ajax in the semi, and then potentially Barcelona, Liverpool or United in the final.
In the Premier league title race, City looked down and out after a series of slip-ups during the Christmas period when title-contender Liverpool seemingly couldn’t lose. But Guardiola’s side persevered, and now, after a series of strong results on their end and Liverpool dropping points, City controls its own destiny as the team defends the title it won last year.
Indeed, the next two weeks will define City’s season. In the space of 15 days, Guardiola and his side will have played Tottenham three times (twice in the Champions League and once in the Premier League) and crosstown rival Manchester United. After the defeat in the first leg on Tuesday, City will need to win both remaining Spurs’ fixtures and the match against United if they want to keep its quadruple dream alive.
Player for player, this City team is talented enough to win each trophy. But the real difficulty comes in winning all of them. Playing in four competitions takes a toll on the players, and City is starting to show signs of wear and tear with injuries piling up.
Pep Guardiola knows how difficult the quadruple is. He won an astounding six trophies with Barcelona and could become the first manager to win the treble twice, but winning all four titles available seems a little out of reach this season.