Man City enjoy Abu Dhabi warm-weather training camp but target firmly set on treble repeat

Pep Guardiola's side have relocated to the UAE capital before returning to UK for latest trophy quest

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They have been urged by their manager Pep Guardiola to enjoy their continuing warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi but make no mistake, Manchester City players have one thing on their mind: following up on their historic 2022/23 with another treble-winning effort this season.

After scooping six prizes at the Dubai Globe Soccer Awards on Friday, City have relocated to the UAE capital, where they have been making full use of the spectacular weather and elite accommodations to prepare for the second half of their campaign.

Under sunny skies and with the Arabian Gulf providing a scenic backdrop, City players, including serial goalscorer Erling Haaland, were spotted across the grounds of Emirates Palace on Monday, where they took part in various commercial activities following a closed training session.

This time last year, City were trailing Arsenal by eight points in the Premier League before they rebounded to secure the title and complet a treble – becoming just the second English team to achieve that feat – with triumphs in the Champions League and the FA Cup.

This campaign, City are also playing catch up as they look to cut a five-point deficit to current Premier League leaders Liverpool, albeit with a game in hand.

Since they returned from Saudi Arabia with the Club World Cup trophy last month, City have won all four games they have contested in the domestic league and the FA Cup, and midfielder Phil Foden is well aware of the pressure he and his teammates are under to spark another comeback and usurp Liverpool.

“It shows how far the club has come, now we’re favourites to try to do it again and it just shows the pressure on us. But being the team we are, we always want to try to achieve the best things and why not try and do it again?” Foden told The National.

Rico Lewis had predicted at the start of last season that City would win the treble and the 19-year-old defensive midfielder believes his side are ready for a repeat.

“Obviously, every season is different but I feel the same again,” said Lewis.

“With the players we’ve got, there’s no reason why we don’t aim to try to win everything all over again. It’s not good enough at Manchester City just to win something once and I think we can do it again.”

Summer signing Josko Gvardiol has enjoyed a smooth transition into the City defence since moving from RB Leipzig on a five-year deal last August.

The talented Croatian says he is no stranger to pressure, having been promoted to the first team with Dinamo Zagreb when he was just 18 years old, and feels he shares the same ethos with Guardiola, who adopts a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to complacency, and is constantly demanding more of his squad.

“The real thing is that I’m kind of that guy as well, it’s true. I know how he works, you’re just not happy with whatever you’ve done and you want more,” said Gvardiol.

Manchester City stars focused on 'winning everything' as they train in the UAE

Manchester City stars focused on 'winning everything' as they train in the UAE

With expectations on City perhaps at an all-time high, do the players feel they are up for another successful chase in the league?

“I will not tell you the secret,” Gvardiol says with a chuckle. “I said many times the season is long. We are back, of course some injured players, but they are coming back as well, hopefully.

“All I can say is that the league until the end is going to be very interesting and of course we are aiming to win everything.”

One player who has managed to solidify his position in Guardiola's starting XI is Foden, who has started all but six games across competitions this campaign, finding the net on 11 occasions.

“Just working hard on the training field, I think when the manager sees you’re working hard and performing in training you get your reward,” said the 23-year-old England international, who made his City first-team debut at the tender age of 17.

“He’s trusting me now in the midfield and I’m really delighted with it and hopefully I can continue to play there.”

Fellow academy graduate Lewis is hoping he too can lock down a regular spot in Guardiola’s plans but is happy to play any position the Spanish manager feels he is needed.

“Here at City, it’s probably better to be more versatile because of the formations we play and the different positions I can play in and for me at the moment I can get more minutes on the pitch playing in different positions,” said Lewis.

“But at some point I hope to settle into a position and I do like playing midfield the most.”

City return to action on Friday with a fourth-round FA Cup clash at Tottenham Hotspur before hosting Burnley in the Premier League five days later.

Updated: January 23, 2024, 7:36 AM