Pellegrini stands by plan to field weakened FA Cup team

Manuel Pellegrini is set to carry out a plan to field a weakened Manchester City team when his side face Chelsea

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Manuel Pellegrini is set to carry out a plan to field a weakened Manchester City team when his side face Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

The City manager has been angered by the scheduling of the match, which takes place just 24 hours before his club travel to Ukraine for Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Dynamo Kiev.

After they fly home following that match, City will have just two full days to prepare for their League Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday, February 28.

City wanted to play the FA Cup tie at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground on Saturday.

But with Chelsea’s west London neighbours Fulham also at home that day, police were reluctant to be responsible for two matches in such close proximity to one another on the same day.

A further complication came when the BBC, who are broadcasting the Chelsea-City match, called for the Cup tie to be moved to Sunday for scheduling purposes.

City have written a letter of complaint to the Football Association but the governing body has yet to announce its response.

In the meantime Pellegrini, who will be replaced as City manager by Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola at the end of the season, feels he has been left with little option but to play an inexperienced team against Chelsea.

“I think unfortunately at this moment we have just 13 (senior outfield) players available to play,” he said. “We have to play Champions League on Wednesday, so we’ll see what will be the best team we can put on the pitch for the FA Cup.

“I said a couple of weeks ago if you want to protect the English team in the Champions League the game was (played on) Saturday -- but for different reasons we couldn’t play that day,” the Chilean added.

City have several players currently injured, including Bacary Sagna, Jesus Navas, Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph, Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony.

And, given City’s fixture pile-up, Pellegrini has no qualms about resting the likes of Joe Hart, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero from FA Cup duty this weekend.

“We always try to play with a strong team in every competition -- every competition is important, especially the FA Cup,” said Pellegrini.

“But we must prioritise the Champions League. The priority is (usually) the next game but maybe we are going to make an exception now because of the amount of players we have injured.”

Nevertheless a win over Chelsea would be timely for City after their bid to win the Premier League title suffered a double setback following defeats in their last two matches by fellow contenders Leicester and Tottenham.

“It’s not a (make-or-) break point but it’s a very important week because we can win the first title of the season and we are going to try to qualify for the first time for the quarter-finals of the Champions League,” Pellegrini said.

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