Saving their best for last? City scrap into FA Cup final ahead of key games in quadruple bid

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Pep Guardiola's side performed poorly in Saturday's semi-final against Brighton but got the job done thanks to a lovely early goal from Gabriel Jesus

Manchester City are closing in on the much talked-about 'quadruple' after reaching their first FA Cup final since 2013, and there is the distinct feeling that there is a lot more to come from this team.

Particularly so after they strolled past Brighton, using Gabriel Jesus' early goal as a platform to manage their efforts ahead of a crunch run of fixtures in the Premier League and Champions League.

Since the March international break City have won all three of their games by scoring early and using the second half as a training exercise.

That was certainly the case against Fulham and Cardiff, and knowing the quality and determination that Pep Guardiola's men boast, the performances were best taken as a sign that they are ready and waiting to spring into life when the big tests come.

But they were not quite so comfortable against Brighton at Wembley. City certainly started with fantastic energy, and some surgical precision led to the opening goal after just four minutes.

Aymeric Laporte picked out Bernardo Silva, who had the freedom of the right flank because Kevin De Bruyne was occupying Seagulls left-back Bernardo.

City's Bernardo quickly combined with De Bruyne to allow the Belgium just enough space to aim the perfect cross towards the far post, where Jesus was arriving to stoop and nod in a fine diving header.

It was a wonderful goal and it looked like more would soon follow, just as they did against Fulham and Cardiff.

Gabriel Jesus Manchester City 2018-19

Instead, nothing really followed. Kyle Walker could have been sent off after a clash with the troublesome Alireza Jahanbakhsh, but both the referee and VAR deemed his head motion was not quite a headbutt. 

Guardiola may have taken a dimmer view; he took the England right-back off at half-time, although in fairness he was also carrying a knock.

Other than that brief flashpoint, not a lot happened. Brighton were gamely cheered on by their supporters but the truth is that Chris Hughton's men barely had a sniff of an equaliser, save the odd set-piece.

But City hardly threatened either, certainly by their own extremely high standards.

They did not enjoy as much possession as usual through the middle of the pitch until Fernandinho came on, and while Brighton could do little more than huff and puff, City hardly blew the house down either.

Guardiola will know his team will have to be slicker and more creative in their upcoming games, against more daunting prospects than their past three opponents.

Three games against Tottenham and away trips to Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Burnley promise to provide sterner examinations of City's quadruple credentials. 

Not that their fans should leave Wembley with any grave concerns, far from it. After all, they are on the verge of history.

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And in these past three games, when they have known nothing less than a win will do, they have started superbly and proven that they know there is no room for complacency. In all three games, they have got the job done. 

That is the aim of the game at this time of the season, and while Saturday's semi-final was not the most convincing of victories, it is their 21st win from 22 games in 2019.

Things could be worse!