Fernandinho has said the Premier League title is now close for Manchester City — but they will not ease up until it is secured.
City know victory in their next two games will be enough for them to be crowned Premier League champions.
“We cannot deny we are close to winning the league, but we have to keep working and keep focused, as we did since the first day, [going] game by game, step by step,” he said.
“By working hard every day, every week, every game we are going to go get there,” the Brazil international added.
Pep Guardiola’s men restored a 16-point lead at the top of the table with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Stoke on Monday. They now need only a maximum of three more wins to complete the job, but just two will suffice if one of them comes against second-placed Manchester United.
With a derby coming up at the Etihad Stadium on April 7, City fans can anticipate potentially securing the title against their rivals — providing Everton can be beaten first on March 31. But midfielder Fernandinho does not want to look that far ahead yet, even though he is sure the celebrations will begin sooner or later.
City were hardly tested by the relegation-threatened Stoke and played within themselves despite dominating possession.
They did carve out numerous chances though and well-worked goals early in each half from David Silva proved enough.
“Of course it is a tough place to come and play good football but we did it,” said Fernandinho. “We are happy for that and one more step to the title.”
Defeat left Stoke 19th in the table and with much to do to pull themselves out of relegation danger.
With games against Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool ahead, their run-in is tricky but they are still just one point behind 17th-placed Southampton and manager Paul Lambert remains optimistic.
“I am happy we never capitulated and the lads stuck to it,” he said. “They are a really difficult team to play against because their movement is excellent.
“But this game is not going to define our season, not at all. There are positives to be taken from this game for sure.
“We are still well in the mix, there are plenty of points to be played for and we will be ready to go again on Saturday against Everton.”