Manuel Pellegrini shocked everyone by announcing before the FA Cup clash against Chelsea, that he would be fielding a weakened side at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The Chilean then followed that up by fielding a side consisting mostly of fringe players like Manu Garcia, Alex Serrano, Bersant Celina, David Faupala, and Kelechi Iheanacho. Out of these players, Iheanacho is the only one who has been getting some regular first team action (mostly on the bench).
While he chose to let the young guns have the attacking impetus, Pellegrini gave his seasoned campaigners like Aleksandar Kolarov, Martin Demichelis, Pablo Zabaleta, and Fernando the defensive responsibilities. Meanwhile, his counterpart Guus Hiddink went for a full strength side.
The Citizens held held their own in the first half, when Faupala canceled out Diego Costa’s goal. However, it all began to fall apart in the second half, as Chelsea scored four more to win the match 5-1.
The obvious questions about Pellegrini’s team selection were raised after the match, and Pellegrini defended his stance by saying that he did not have enough regular first team players fit enough for the match.
“Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t play another game and we couldn’t have more players fit for this game so we knew it was a very difficult chance to continue in the FA Cup but because the game was played today we couldn’t progress,” Pellegrini was quoted as saying by Manchester City’s official website.
“The second thing is that we have six players injured and we don’t have more than 13 players so we could not take the risk to continue having injuries to the players that we have,” he continued. “After that, we came up against a very good team.”
Should the FA help English teams with fixture congestion?
Manchester City have a very tough tough run of fixtures ahead of them, in which they would have to play five matches in around three week’s time. These three weeks started off with the 5-1 defeat against Chelsea, scheduled to be followed by Wednesday’s Champions League fixture against Dynamo Kyiv, at the Ukranian capital.
That is followed by a weekend League Cup Final against Liverpool, and another midweek Premier League tie against the Merseyside club at Anfield. After the match Pellegrini seemed to be suggesting that FA should extend some help regarding fixture congestion to teams that are representing England in the European competitions.
“If we play on Saturday it’s better for us because we have to play for England in the Champions League on Wednesday so it’s better for England,” said Pellegrini.
The Italian and the German federations already heed requests from their clubs to pre-pone or post-pone matches by a day. Juventus played their latest Serie A match last Friday, when they drew 0-0 against Bologna. In Germany, Schalke are on a run of 13 unbeaten Friday night Bundesliga fixtures at home.
The debate about introducing Friday night fixtures to help the Premier League clubs competing in Europe has been going on for a few years. We could finally see the Premier League teams being given the option of pre-poning their league engagements from the 2016/17 season, according to reports in the English media.