LONDON • Pep Guardiola has told his Manchester City side they have now entered must-win territory in their three-pronged bid for silverware this season.
City top-scorer Sergio Aguero's 23rd goal of the campaign and a third in as many matches from German forward Leroy Sane sealed a comfortable 2-0 English Premier League win at struggling Sunderland on Sunday.
Guardiola's team reclaimed third place and were left eight points behind leaders Chelsea before the Blues played West Ham yesterday.
Victory at home to Stoke tomorrow will push City into second place, above Tottenham, in what promises to be a tense final two months of the season.
City are still in both the Champions League - where they take a 5-3 first-leg advantage in the last 16 to Monaco - and the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where they will face Middlesbrough.
Guardiola's men have hit form at just the right time, with seven wins in the last eight games boosting their hopes of ending the campaign with another trophy to add to the growing collection at the Etihad.
"We're coming into some good form and making results, and that's important at this stage of the season," said City's manager, whose side have lost just one of their 11 games in 2017.
"We are in March and April, with every game if you win you stay, if you lose, then you're out. Be that in the Premier League, in the Champions League or the FA Cup.
"The players know that, we know, and the club knows that if we don't win the next game, then we'll be out."
City face a pivotal trio of league fixtures against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea starting later this month that will have a massive bearing on their hopes of landing their latest domestic title.
Following Gabriel Jesus' absence due to a broken metatarsal, Aguero is in blistering form and Sane has also justified his huge transfer fee.
Sane, capped four times by Germany, joined City from Schalke for £37 million (S$64 million) last summer. He has scored six goals in his past 10 appearances.
"Always when you pay a lot of money, managers all over the world are expecting the best," Guardiola said.
"When it's going well it is always cheap. When it's going bad it's always expensive. In the beginning it was expensive, now it's cheap."
Sunderland remain rooted to the bottom of the table after the loss, six points adrift of safety, after winning just one of their last 10 Premier League games.
They play Burnley in March, before a key run of fixtures in April that will go a long way to deciding their fate in what is a fifth consecutive relegation battle for the northeast club.
"April looks to be a really big month for us," said Sunderland manager David Moyes after seeing his side stretch their wait for a home league win to more than three months.
"We don't want to be adrift by then. The heartening thing is that by the start of April we will hopefully have some key players back.
"If we can get the troops together in the final six or seven weeks of the season, then I think we've got a good chance of staying up."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON