Winning the Treble is an achievement reserved only for the most dominant football teams.
It takes an elite level of skill, determination and concentration – and no lack of luck – to capture the national league title, the premier continental tournament and the first national cup competition in the same season.
Such is the difficulty of the task, only one team in English football history – Manchester United in 1998/99 – has achieved it.
However, after a thrilling, action-packed weekend in England, it now looks more likely than ever that a team will match United’s historic performance.
After booking a place in the semi-finals of the Champions League with a 4-1 aggregate victory over Bayern Munich, Manchester City reached the FA Cup final on Saturday with a comfortable 3-0 victory over second-tier Sheffield United at Wembley Stadium .
That victory came a day after Arsenal again threw away points in the Premier League title race and drew 3-3 at home to relegation-threatened Southampton to hand the initiative to City for the first time this season.
City are five points behind Arsenal at the top of the Premier League but crucially have two games left to play, with the two teams facing each other in a huge title fight at the Etihad on Wednesday.
Entertainment data company Gracenote now gives City a 79% chance of winning the Premier League and Arsenal only a 21% chance.
Despite City now being a maximum of 12 games away from a potential Treble, manager Pep Guardiola refuses to get carried away by the possibility.
“I’ll talk to you about it after we win the FA Cup and the Premier League,” he told reporters after the FA Cup semi-final, according to the BBC.
“Before the Champions League final, we will start talking about the Treble. Look how far it is. We are far, far away. How many times have Trebles been done in this great country? How many years? How many teams?
“It’s a. Once. Our neighbors did it in how many centuries? Am I excited about the Treble? Not at all.”
There has been an inevitability over Manchester City in recent weeks as the team went on a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions, improving with each game over that stretch.
Led by the ruthless Erling Haaland, whose 32 Premier League goals equal the record for a 38-game season with eight games of the current season remaining for City, Guardiola’s side have scored at will.
You can only imagine the fear and nervousness those Arsenal players felt as they looked over their shoulders at the heaving juggernaut behind them.
That pressure finally started to pay off against Liverpool and West Ham as Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead on both teams, before scoring a point against Southampton after trailing 3–1 late in the game.
The Gunners are also troubled by the absence of William Saliba, who has missed the last five games after being injured in the Europa League defeat to Sporting. With Rob Holding replacing the French defender, Arsenal failed to keep a clean sheet in those five games.
Should Manchester City beat Arsenal at the Etihad on Wednesday, as most people are now likely to expect, the Premier League title race would appear to be a foregone conclusion.
It is an ominous sign and a testament to City’s strength in depth that Guardiola was able to make six changes to the side that drew Bayern Munich in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.
With the FA Cup final against Manchester United already on the calendar – a match City will be favorites to win on June 3 – Guardiola’s toughest challenge yet this season is likely to be the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid .
While few would argue that City are the better of the two teams, there is an aura – or “magic”, as defender Nacho described it last season – that Real Madrid possess when they play in the Champions League and the belief that this trophy belongs to the Spanish club.
Coupled with what many people believe is Guardiola’s tendency to overthink strategies and tactics in major European matches, the two-legged Champions League semi-final – on May 9-17 – is undoubtedly City’s toughest remaining hurdle .
Whatever happens during the run-up, Guardiola said he is grateful his players have once again enabled the team to win multiple trophies at the end of the season.
“I said yesterday that we are far from the Treble and this discussion for a funny moment is OK,” Guardiola said, according to the Guardian.
“The reality, I have often said, the most impressive thing for this club, from the hierarchy to the staff in the back room, is that after many years, six years, winning titles and titles, we are still here. [competing]. I love being here and working with this club.
“One year you can do it – I don’t want to win one Champions League and then be at the bottom,” he added. “The Champions League [can] destroy projects when you win or lose [but] this club is quite stable.
“With seven weeks to go, we are still fighting for titles – this is the most important trophy we can get. Thank you very much to the [players] – in the last three years, the worst performance we’ve had in the FA Cup has been the semi-finals.”