Richard Buxton: Man City to swagger, not slog, to title
Guardiola and his men are looking good to win the quadruple, with Aguero spearheading the charge
As it stands, there will be little need for Manchester City to "fight till the end".
Pep Guardiola's side are more likely to swagger than slog their way to the finish line again.
Liverpool could be forgiven for watching through their fingers as the reigning champions annihilated a below-par Chelsea in a 6-0 thrashing yesterday morning (Singapore time).
With their title rivals in this vein of form, negotiating a potentially tricky week with flying colours, Anfield's domestic drought is in genuine danger of ticking over into its third decade.
Should the Reds fall short again, for a fourth time in the modern era, they will only have themselves to blame.
Barely two months ago, they were the ones who sparkled like a new penny while City stumbled, failing to reconcile a Fernandinho-shaped hole in their midfield.
A chance to go seven points clear was squandered, as was their failure to extend the chasm with their direct competitors to double figures at the start of last month.
Diminished priorities supposedly offered them hopes that Guardiola's preoccupation would afford them a reprieve.
Prioritising the Champions League over the title was considered the key objective for City this season. The opposite appeared true for their closest challengers.
Heading into mid-February with a footing in all four competitions, however, disproves the first assumption.
Juergen Klopp's players have started to reaffirm the message that they can focus on only themselves because fixating on what the leaders do is simply a futile exercise.
Watching events unfold at the Etihad Stadium has become a similarly soul-destroying experience.
Half of Europe must harbour a similar foreboding ahead of this week's Round of 16. Guardiola's masterplan to sweep all before him is becoming a distinct possibility.
If Chelsea can be defrocked so easily in the dress rehearsal for the League Cup final, what hopes do Schalke 04 have of surviving their own knock-out stage ordeal against City?
Spare a thought for Newport County, too. No amount of undesirable playing surface will prevent the book being closed on the FA Cup giantkillers' fairy-tale later this month. Rodney Parade's notorious pitch holds little fears, especially when Sergio Aguero walks on water.
The Argentinian's second hat-trick in the space of seven days confirmed him as the focal point of Guardiola's current bid for competitive ubiquity.
His manager's tough-love approach has often bordered on the unrealistic, but performances like this prove it has the desired effect.
His glaring early miss could have been a watershed moment, both against the Londoners and in the title race. A 25-metre thunderbolt easily atoned before an ensuing brace practically wiped all traces of that early shortcoming from memory, for City's supporters at least.
Aguero's elevated sense of importance extends beyond his standing as their greatest all-time striker. His initial arrival, nearly eight years ago, signified a renewed level of ambition at the Etihad. The stakes are higher but, even at the age of 30, his influence has merely increased.
Guardiola challenged Aguero to become more than just a goal scorer at a time when his predecessors would have allowed the talisman to rest on his laurels.
If an unprecedented quadruple is to remain on the horizon, keeping Aguero firing is as imperative as City holding their nerve. A once impossible dream may finally become a reality.