• Tottenham keeper pinpoints reason for City's excellence
• Jesús Navas: 'Our mentality is to work really hard'
Having fetched the ball from the back of his net 11 times against Manchester City this season, Hugo Lloris's expression was understandably a little sober as he took a moment before summing up what he thought his opponents are capable of doing. The Tottenham goalkeeper concluded that not only should City win the Premier League, they also carry the signature of a team who can conquer the Champions League.
City, Lloris reckons, have a cohesion that has made this collective of skills incredibly powerful: "The difference between City of last season and this season is that every player is playing for the team," he said after Wednesday's 5-1 home defeat. "So when you have a squad like that – of that quality, when everybody is thinking about the team – they have the potential to win the Champions League. For me they should be the winners of the league but there are a lot of games still to play."
This sense that the team identity comes first is felt in the way City conduct themselves on and off the pitch. Their style is now more controlled and their demeanour more serene. Under Manuel Pellegrini, there is a focus that gives their challenge a different kind of authority to the slightly more impulsive atmosphere that existed under Roberto Mancini.
The focus on the group, and an expectation for total effort for the cause, was echoed by Jesús Navas. "Our mentality is to work really hard day to day," he said. "We are working very hard on the training sessions and we're doing things right and that is why we are getting good results."
The Spaniard could not stress strongly enough the importance of their everyday practice. It is not as if a team of all stars just trots out and blows the opposition away.
The motivation, Navas said, comes from the players as much as it does from Pellegrini. "This is the way we want to play, the way we want to perform, the way we're working on the training pitch," he said. "We have to keep going like this. If you want to challenge for all the titles, you have to be ready for periods that are very demanding when you have very important matches. But we are working really hard and I think we are prepared to face any team. We are focused on keeping working like we did here every single week. Obviously there is pressure, we want to win the title, but there is nothing to worry about."
City are top of the league and looking forward to the home game with Chelsea on Monday. "They work especially hard, all the players under [José] Mourinho. He has a special, winning mentality so it is always difficult to face teams Mourinho manages," Navas said. "We cannot forget Arsenal, who are playing really well and getting good results. Chelsea are also fighting with us to get first spot. It was very important to be top of the table ahead of the match on Monday."
In the icy rain of a January night at White Hart Lane, Navas could not have looked more relaxed. As a player who suffered with acute homesickness, he laughed off the idea that he would sooner be in Andalucia than in the thick of the slog of an English winter. "I have settled down very well both on a professional level and personal level," he said. "All of my team-mates help me very much in adapting to a new league, a new style of football. On a personal level, I have my family here, my wife and my daughter, so I am extremely happy."
Joining forces with David Silva, Sergio Agüero, Álvaro Negredo and company, Navas has eased into an attack who look set to break all sorts of records. City left Tottenham shellshocked for the second time this season, helping themselves to another haul once Danny Rose had been sent off.
It left Lloris feeling enough was enough. Having conceded five goals at home to Liverpool a few weeks ago, another drubbing on their own turf hurt. "We can't accept that, in front of our crowd again," he said. "It's difficult to find the words for a game like that. The thing is we have to be positive because we are still fifth, three points behind Liverpool. So its open. We just need to be focused until the end of the game and I hope in the next big test against a team from the top four we will be better and we will have a good response."