With confidence high after Basel demolition, only Man City can stop Man City now
Manchester City's well-worn passing routines ripped the will to live out of FC Basel; off the pace and outmanoeuvred by a City team as slick as they were hungry, the Swiss side's hopes had been demolished completely inside 20 first half minutes.
City's dominance will have confirmed fears held in Madrid, Munich, Paris and Barcelona, that here is a team that could well reach the final in Kiev this May if they keep up this coruscating pace and precision.
We have become accustomed to seeing City's delicious brand of pass and move flatten domestic opposition in the Premier League, but now the reality is beginning to dawn on the continent that Pep Guardiola has a special team that few will be able to match.
Basel had made all the right noises beforehand of wanting to be energetic in their tracking of City's main men and diligent in harrying space, but to carry this out, you first have to get close to your opponent. City, with Ilkay Gundogan lively if over-elaborate and Fernandinho shovelling up all the midfield loose balls, quickly had a platform to feed the tireless running of Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling.
It has been a recurring theme throughout this blistering season of goal-strewn football. Having taken a season to get used to the Premier League sights and smells, Guardiola has put his thoughts into action and what project he is constructing at Manchester City.
Sweet music flows from where creaking noises used to emanate; even the back four, erratically efficient in Basel, seem able to make mistakes and get away with them. Maybe Basel's drowsiness after their winter break had something to do with this, as Vincent Kompany prodded short passes to nobody in particular and goalkeeper Ederson played his game of Russian roulette, slicing his passes hither and thither through the narrowest of margins.
Yet so underused is the Brazilian keeper, you begin to wonder if he is taking greater risks with his passing each game just to liven things up for himself and his defensive colleagues. Certainly, a more alert side than Basel might have pounced on one or two of the more loosely defended balls on this occasion. But to focus on such instances would be to miss the point.
City are in such perfect harmony going forward that a special kind of telepathy appears at times to be at work. With the successful return of David Silva, Fabian Delph and Leroy Sane -- surprisingly rapidly in the latter's case -- City's personnel changes but the effectiveness of the whole remains utterly unaffected.
The system of pass and move -- the ball zipping along that invisible thread as if being pulled by some puppet master above the main stand -- is so imbued in these players that individual elements hardly seem to matter.
They do, of course, with Kevin De Bruyne's presence near Fernandinho the pivot for everything good that happens in City's engine room. This is not to belittle the contributions of others, the ceaseless breaking of Kyle Walker, Sterling and Bernardo down the flanks, the prodding and jostling of Nicolas Otamendi in central defence, and the agility (one sudden superb save required in an hour and a half of perfecting his passing angles) of Ederson, but certain players will be indispensable when the big games inevitably come round for this side.
Guardiola's job now is to shepherd those precious legs and lungs through the rest of a less punishing February. With vital cup encounters vs. Wigan and Arsenal coming up, City could end the month with the first of a possible (whisper it) four trophies in the cabinet and the likelihood of the other three joining it ever closer.
A club once revered for its ability to mess things up without help from others is slowly growing into the most reliable of teams to support. The buoyant City fans who made the trip to St Jakob-Park this midweek have survived traumas in the past that many clubs' fans have not. It is perhaps this that makes the current highs so exhilarating to view.
Strangely enough, though, one thing has not changed in all of this: in a season decorated so beautifully with art and craft, it is only City that can stop City now.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.