'I made the right decision' insists Pellegrini despite bridge destruction
Published 22/02/2016 | 02:30
Manuel Pellegrini defended his decision to play a Manchester City team full of kids against Chelsea in the FA Cup by claiming that he did it for England, writes Matt Law
City manager Pellegrini started with six teenagers at Stamford Bridge and saw his young team thrashed 5-1 by Chelsea ahead of the Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev.
Chelsea will now travel to Everton in the quarter-finals in a replay of the 2009 FA Cup final that Guus Hiddink won during his first spell as caretaker. Pellegrini had warned City's travelling fans that he would play a weakened team in the FA Cup after the club failed with their attempts to have the fifth-round tie moved forward from Sunday to allow more time between facing Chelsea and Kiev.
And Pellegrini was unrepentant for his decision, saying: "If we played on Saturday it would have been better for us because we have to play for England in the Champions League on Wednesday, so it is better for England (to play a young team).
"I don't think I need a defence. We played two rounds before, we had in both rounds draws with Premier League teams and we won 4-0 and 3-0 with the players we had in that moment.
"One of the most important things we must do in England is to try to help English teams who are playing in the Champions League.
"We cannot take the risk if I have just 13 players in this moment. If I have 20 players then maybe I can, but, if I have just 13 players, I cannot take the risk to not recover the players who have a long flight on Monday, or have one more player more injured. We did the correct thing. The best decision for our club.
"If one team respects all the cups it's this team, that's why we're in the final of the Capital One. That's why we won two previous games in this cup.
Today we couldn't because we had more important things at the current moment. Right now, we try to reach the quarter-final of the Champions League, with 13 players, it's a sensible decision."
He added: "We played with six young players, but I was very happy. Unfortunately, for us, in five minutes we threw away what we did. At 3-1 it was very difficult.
"It's never good to lose 5-1. I was not happy about the score. But we have a lot of positive things about young players."
Hiddink, the Chelsea interim manager, fielded his strongest possible team against City and was rewarded with goals from Diego Costa, Willian, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and substitute Bertrand Traore.
"The programme for many clubs is rather harsh on one hand," said Hiddink. "On the other hand, I think one can play every three or four days, especially when you have a squad with quality, of 16, 17, 18 players who have big quality.
"We must not forget the tradition of English football. Winning the FA Cup is beautiful world-wide, so we must be careful not to devalue it."