Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players that complacency is the biggest threat to their push for domestic and European domination.
Guardiola’s unbeaten Premier League leaders visit Chelsea on Saturday sitting two points clear of closest challengers Liverpool.
City are well on course to defend the title they won with 100 points in May and are also through to the last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare.
They have managed all of that largely without the services of last season’s club player of the year Kevin De Bruyne.
City must also go to London without top scorer Sergio Aguero, who has missed the past two matches with an adductor muscle strain.
Guardiola, who says he does not care about the possibility of City going through the entire league season unbeaten, has told his players that maintaining their standards is the key to success.
“The biggest danger to us is basically to think that it’s not necessary to improve,” he said. “I see my team and many things are good but still we can be better.
“I am proud that we have been consistent for most of the past 15 or 16 months, playing every three days.
“That’s the most difficult thing to achieve in all sports. It’s a big compliment for the players. But I tell them every game that there are many things we can do better, but we could have dropped two points in the final 10 minutes at Watford on Tuesday.”
Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has suggested that Manchester City are the best team in Europe but Guardiola has dismissed that claim.
According to the City manager, his team need to win the Champions League before they can be classed as the continent’s best.
Chelsea have lost their past two away league matches, at Tottenham and Wolves, but Sarri is taking them in the right direction, according to former Barcelona boss Guardiola.
“The job he has done so far is excellent,” he said. “People don’t know how difficult it is to play in a special way. He needs time.
“Their past two away games were so difficult and things like this can happen. But during pre-season, we played them in the Community Shield at Wembley and they were already his team.
“Maybe they are not playing consistently for 90 minutes but when they play well for 50 to 70 minutes, they are excellent.”
Guardiola has played down the likelihood of City matching the Arsenal side of 2003-04 by going through a whole Premier League season unbeaten, arguing that it is less important to him than the quality of his team’s performances.
City managed a run of 22 league games unbeaten from the start of last season, winning 20 of them, before falling to a 4-3 defeat at Liverpool in January.
Arsenal are one of only two teams to go through an entire English top-flight season without defeat.