Pep Guardiola has admitted the demands of winning the treble did take a toll on his Manchester City players.
City were knocked out of the Carabao Cup and suffered rare back-to-back Premier League defeats prior to the recent international break.
They got back to winning ways with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Brighton on Saturday but Guardiola concedes that there has been a natural drop in intensity after the remarkable end to last season.
The City manager said: “The treble had an influence on all of us, me included.
“So now we need to be there, close, month by month, to arrive in the final decision moments at the end of the season close to the opponents to try it again.
“I said many times, no-one has won four Premier Leagues in a row, never ever. That shows how difficult it is, but now it’s important to be there, especially in the Champions League, qualify for the next round in this period and after we can just focus on the Premier League. That is the target.”
City’s success has also brought increased expectations, particularly on Erling Haaland, who scored a remarkable 52 goals in an outstanding first season at the club last term.
By his extraordinary standards, the Norwegian’s recent three-game run without a goal constituted a barren spell but he ended that ‘drought’ with a clinical strike against the Seagulls.
“Yes the expectations are so high but he’s handled it really well,” said Guardiola. “He knows he could have scored even more goals in the nine Premier League games we have played.”
Guardiola rested goalkeeper, Ederson, at the weekend following the Brazilian’s exertions during the international break. Stefan Ortega took his place.
Guardiola said: “It was just for the fact that the travel from Brazil, it’s a long time. Of course it’s happened many times but he played two games there and he was so so tired.
“Normally I like to play Ortega in the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, but we are out of the Carabao Cup, and sometimes it’s good for Eddy to rest a bit and refresh the mind.”
Ortega was pleased to get the opportunity and hopes there will be plenty more.
The German said: “I was excited when Pep told me that I was starting. I’m always waiting to get a chance to get a bit more game time. -Independent