'It's a brilliant time to be in my shoes' - Grealish ready for Man City's treble charge

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The final two months of the season have often been an important time for Jack Grealish, but nothing will have prepared him for a run-in like this.

Campaigns climaxed with relegation battles on loan at Notts County and then with Aston Villa before chasing promotion back out of the Championship for three years.

But this will be an entirely new experience at Manchester City - a place where battling for the biggest trophies goes right to the finish.

And this season will be more extraordinary than most. With Liverpool breathing down their necks in the Premier League, Jurgen Klopp's side to face in an FA Cup semi-final and a Champions League quarter-final against Spanish heavyweights Atletico Madrid, there is little room for any slip-ups.

Pep Guardiola needs every member of his squad right at the top of their game with a challenge for any trophy, never mind all three, needing close to perfection.

That might sound a daunting prospect to Grealish - the £100 million ($131m) British record signing who is still finding his feet at the Etihad Stadium. But it's also a reminder of why he made the leap from the boyhood club he loves in Villa to a giant that can match his ambitions.

Grealish has runners-up medals in the FA Cup, League Cup and European Championship, and now is the time to make himself a winner.

"It's a brilliant time to be in my shoes," he said after impressing in England's 3-0 victory over Ivory Coast in midweek. "We're in so many competitions still and then at the end of the year we have the World Cup."

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The two-week international break put the domestic season on hold and gave everyone time to take a breath before what will be a relentless final few weeks.

That includes Grealish, who played with a relaxed freedom at Wembley, setting up a goal for Raheem Sterling and teasing Serge Aurier into a ridiculous red card.

He has admitted to being anxious over his low return for goals and assists despite Guardiola telling him to forget all about the statistics and stressing his importance to the team.

One key indicator that Guardiola backs him is that, despite a couple of injury niggles and a squad brimming with quality, the 26-year-old has started almost two-thirds of City's Champions League and Premier League fixtures.

"I've spoken to Pep Guardiola," he said. "He's shown me every other stat in the world that you would be happy with apart from goals and assists.

"He's the only person I need to impress but if you're a forward you want to get goals and assists so hopefully in the business end of the season I can get them."

Of course, goals and assists win matches and Guardiola needs everyone to contribute in the crucial final matches.

Back-to-back goalless draws against Sporting C.P. and Crystal Palace before the 4-1 FA Cup victory over Southampton led to an uneasiness about City's ability to produce goals under pressure without a recognised striker.

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Of the upcoming testing run, Liverpool are one of the few teams that can match City's quality and they will need to take chances when they come along.

But teams that sit deep, soak up pressure and hit on the counter-attack are dangerous to a Guardiola side that plays high.

Diego Simeone's Atletico are perhaps the masters at it, which is why the Champions League draw is such a danger.

Ahead of that game though, City must maintain their Premier League push away to relegation-threatened Burnley in what could be a warm-up to the European first leg.

"The Spanish Burnley" was trending on Twitter when Atletico beat Manchester United in the previous round with the comparisons clear. While the term is obviously meant as an insult to the Spanish side, it reflects a shared view in attempting to frustrate opponents and play to your defensive strengths.

Certainly, Burnley boss Sean Dyche had no problems with comparisons after Atletico's victory over Liverpool in 2020.

"Simeone is very good at what he does and makes no qualms about it," he said. "I don’t know about [the Spanish Burnley] - he’s been doing it a bit longer than me I think.

"People forget the goalkeeper is allowed to play well, so are the defenders, they're allowed to tackle and break the play up. And they’re allowed to go and score goals."

Four points from safety, any point against City will be precious for Burnley's survival hopes and their first priority will be stopping the threat from the visitors.

That's why Guardiola's attackers will be so important with Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Sterling and Riyad Mahrez needing to step up in these tight matches. But he won't care who gets the goals and who gets the assists.

De Bruyne often leads the charts for assists but the Belgian can often be more devastating by providing a killer pass that leads to the assist to the goal.

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Mahrez and Sterling can create space for central-shifting full-backs by drifting wide and stretching opponents' backlines. Similarly, Foden and Silva, as false nines, can drop deep to pull centre-backs away from zones for others to run into.

There is room for individual moments of skill and Grealish has the quality to deliver that match-winner which could change people's opinions of his first season.

But any success at City in the upcoming months will be built around believing in Guardiola's attacking philosophy and that will need everyone, including Grealish to play their part.