Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini insists he had no choice but to “risk” playing a weakened team ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid.
The Chilean opted to rotate his squad on Sunday and City were punished, suffering a 4-2 loss to Southampton to hurt their chances of a top-four finish.
Pellegrini’s men are four points clear of fifth-placed city rivals Manchester United, who have a game in hand late in the Premier League season.
Despite the loss, Pellegrini said it was a decision he had to make ahead of the trip to Madrid for Wednesday’s second leg.
“I’d do exactly the same thing again because we have an important game on Wednesday when we play the semi-final of the Champions League,” he said.
“We continue [fighting] depending on what we do in the next two games [to see] if we are going to be in the top four.
“So I think it was a risk, but a risk we were forced to take.”
City are in a decent spot heading to Spain, having held the La Liga giants to a 0-0 draw in the first leg.
Pellegrini said he would assess the fitness of star duo Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure on Monday.