Nathan Ake recognises Manchester City are now in a powerful position thanks to the return to form and fitness of Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.
City have won their last 10 matches in all competitions and are gathering a momentum that could be ominous for their rivals as they bid to repeat their glorious treble of last year.
Their current run started without the influence of the talismanic pairing of De Bruyne and Haaland as both nursed injuries.
Yet both are now back in business, as seen in Saturday’s hard-fought 2-0 win over Everton in which Haaland scored both and De Bruyne created one, and City are looking tough to stop.
Defender Ake said: “We know how good both of them are and when Kevin came on, straight away he looked for Erling. They looked for each other.
“It’s massive that they’re both fit, both ready to go and it’s good to see that we’re doing well.
“It’s just a lift to see everyone back – we haven’t had that for a while – especially the players who can make differences in tight games like this. It’s massive for us.”
De Bruyne missed most of the first half of the season following hamstring surgery but has been eased back into action over the past month.
Ake is surprised how well the Belgian playmaker has hit the ground running.
The Dutchman said: “If you’re out for five or six months normally it takes you a little bit of time but straight away he’s been ready to go, from the first moment.
“I think everyone expected to have to give him a bit of time but he’s been training really well in the gym, he’s worked really hard. You could see on the pitch straight away he was ready.”
Haaland broke the deadlock in a tight game against Everton with a ruthless finish when a rebound fell his way in the 70th minute. He then wrapped up the win after being played in by De Bruyne five minutes from time.
They were his first goals since November having spent two months on the sidelines with a foot problem.
Ake said: “He’s so quick, he’s fast, he’s strong. Out of nothing he can score and in those spaces one versus one it’s very difficult to stop him.”
Manager Pep Guardiola feels De Bruyne and Haaland add an extra layer to a side that was already impressing him.
He said: “These guys have special qualities. They have ability in final third to create something that is not in the statistics, not in the books, in genius managers. To have them for 90 minutes or even 30 or 45 minutes, it is better.
“That is not going to undermine what all their mates have done. We have a team with huge personalities in difficult moments. Otherwise we would not be here again and again.”