CompetitionsPremier League

John Stones: Manchester City quietly confident of title success

John Stones says Manchester City are starting to feel “quietly confident” after moving into second in the Premier League.

City claimed their fifth successive league win on Sunday as they thrashed Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

It took them above champions Liverpool and within two points of leaders Manchester United, with a game in hand.

In all competitions Pep Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in 15 games and have kept clean sheets in 12 of them. They are also through to the Carabao Cup final, the FA Cup fourth round and the last 16 of the Champions League.

Asked to describe the mood among the squad, defender Stones said: “I think quietly confident – but no-one really gets ahead of themselves, no-one looks too far, which is a great quality to have.

“In previous seasons where we have won the league we have never looked further than the next game and that’s all we can affect and all we can prepare for.

“We keep that mentality and hopefully we can keep on this winning run.”

Stones (right) has formed a good partnership with Ruben Dias (left)
Stones (right) has formed a good partnership with Ruben Dias (left) (Shaun Botterill/PA)

Stones, who scored two of the four goals against Palace, has been outstanding himself in City’s recent run of form.

The 26-year-old fell out of favour last season and seemed well down the centre-back pecking order when the current campaign began.

But with Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake affected by form and fitness issues, and Eric Garcia indicating a desire to leave, Stones has grasped an opportunity to shine alongside new signing Ruben Dias.

Of the 10 matches he and Stones have started to together, City have won nine and conceded just one goal.

Contributing goals has highlighted his resurgence further.

“I’ve been wanting to add goals to my game,” said Stones, who also scored in the Carabao Cup semi-final win over United earlier this month.

“I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself, maybe in the wrong way sometimes, to get on the scoresheet but I’ve kept chipping away and kept chipping away in training, trying to improve and being in the right areas.

“It’s a collection of things that have got to come together and I’m really pleased, it’s a weight off my shoulders, my first ‘two’ for City.”

City took a while to warm up against Palace but were always in control after Stones headed the opener from a sublime Kevin De Bruyne cross – his 100th City assist – after 26 minutes.

Ilkay Gundogan curled in a fine second after the break, Stones lashed in the third after Vicente Guaita saved a Dias header and Raheem Sterling put the gloss on victory with a brilliant late free-kick.

Gary Cahill was frustrated by the result at the Etihad Stadium
Gary Cahill was frustrated by the result at the Etihad Stadium (Mike Hewitt/PA)

Palace have won just one of their last eight Premier League games.

Defender Gary Cahill, who returned to the side after injury, said: “I think we gifted the goals. I think we made bad decisions at times in the build-up to goals and we invited a bit of pressure, which we don’t normally do and we got punished for that.

“It wasn’t like our goal was being peppered, we kind of killed ourselves in the end.

“But we have got to regroup, we have got to go again. We have got a massive month in February. We take this, we learn from this and we know the next six games are vitally important for us.”

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