Sunday 19 November 2017

Cup is empty for City and Pellegrini

Chelsea 5 Man City 1

Chelsea's Pedro (centre) battles for the ball with Manchester City's Kelechi Iheanacho (left) and Manu Garcia (right) during the Emirates FA Cup, fifth round match. Photo: John Walton/PA.
Chelsea's Pedro (centre) battles for the ball with Manchester City's Kelechi Iheanacho (left) and Manu Garcia (right) during the Emirates FA Cup, fifth round match. Photo: John Walton/PA.
Chelsea's Diego Costa celebrates scoring their first goal of the game during the Emirates FA Cup, fifth round match at Stamford Bridge. Photo: John Walton/PA.
Chelsea's Jon Obi Mikel (left) and Manchester City's David Faupala battle for the ball. Photo: Nick Potts/PA.

Manuel Pellegrini insisted Manchester City had no choice but to prioritise the Champions League over the FA Cup following their fifth-round loss at Chelsea.

City made nine changes and fielded six teenagers - five of them making their full debuts - in yesterday's 5-1 defeat at Chelsea, who next play Everton in the quarter-finals.

Pellegrini's men play Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Wednesday and the Capital One Cup final with Liverpool next Sunday, so the City boss delivered on his promise to make wholesale changes.

"If one team respects all the cups it's this team," said Pellegrini, who denied disrespecting the competition.

"That's why we are in the final of the Capital One Cup, that's why we won the two previous games in this cup. Today we couldn't because I think we have more important things at this moment.

"I think one of the most important things that we must do here in England is to try to help English teams playing (in the) Champions League.

"We cannot take the risk. I have just 13 players (available) at this moment."

Pressed on why the FA Cup was considered less of a priority than Europe, Pellegrini added: "It's not more important.

"I don't think I need to defend (the selection). We played two rounds before and we had in both rounds a draw with Premier League teams and we won 4-0 and 3-0 (against Aston Villa and Norwich).

"The FA Cup, yes, of course (is special). (But) we have at this moment seven players injured.

"It's impossible for us to take the risk to play in both competitions.

"We are just in the fifth round of the competition.

If we continue in the FA Cup, we don't have time to have games postponed to play for now until the end of the season.

"We have an option for the first time in our club to try to reach the quarter-final of the Champions League.

With 13 players (available), not to prioritise, it's a sensible decision."

Pellegrini was adamant the decision was his after City, who fly to Ukraine today bidding to bounce back from three straight losses, explored every avenue to have the date of the game changed.

"I always take the best decision for the club," he added.

"We tried to do all that we could. It was impossible."

Just 90 seconds after going behind to Diego Costa's opener, City equalised through David Faupala, one of the five full debutants, and it was 1-1 at half-time before Chelsea's second-half blitz.

Willian and Gary Cahill scored within eight minutes of the restart and Eden Hazard and substitute Bertrand Traore added goals.

Chelsea also had a penalty, but Oscar's effort was saved by Willy Caballero.

Pellegrini 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) I think we have a lot of positive things about young players."

The FA Cup has come under scrutiny which will only continue after Pellegrini's selection.

Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink insists the competition must be treasured.

"Winning the FA Cup is beautiful.

"We must be careful not to devalue this," said Hiddink, who won the competition with Chelsea in 2009, beating Everton in the final.

"I had good memories of that time, but that's the past. Some might be still in that team and they go for their revenge.

"They gave us a difficult time here (a 3-3 draw in January).

"We hope to maintain our FA flow a bit when we play them. Not easy."

With the Blues languishing in 12th place in the Premier League, the FA Cup and Champions League are now Hiddink's priority.

"There's not much left in the league for Chelsea, to be honest," he said.

Hiddink extended his 100 per cent record in the competition to six games and has now lost just one of 13 games in all competitions since succeeding Jose Mourinho in December.

Chelsea appear in good health, with Cesc Fabregas influential and Hazard performing well in a second successive 5-1 home win following the Premier League defeat of Newcastle.

Hiddink, who described the concession of the equaliser as "sloppy", said: "Of course it's a boost for the confidence of the players. It's good to see that."

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