Manuel Pellegrini lamented Manchester City’s lengthy injury list after the Premier League leaders turned in a listless performance in their 2-0 defeat at Stoke City.
Marko Arnautovic netted a brace inside the first 15 minutes as Stoke made a dazzling start to the match at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
Kevin De Bruyne drew a save from the hosts’ goalkeeper Jack Butland in between those strikes but it proved to be a rare opportunity for the visitors, who were fortunate not to be on the receiving end of a heavier defeat.
Pellegrini delivered a scathing assessment of his players’ performance when they lost 4-1 at home to Liverpool last month but he held back on this occasion, saying his side were struggling with numerous injuries as they compete on three fronts.
The Chilean made five changes to the team that beat Hull City 4-1 in the League Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday. Only one was enforced, by Eliaquim Mangala’s suspension, but the manager remains without Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero through fitness complaints.
“The most [concerning] thing is that we are playing in all the competitions with all the same players,” Pellegrini told BT Sport after his team ended a forgettable outing with 10 men as midfielder Fernando sustained a hamstring injury.
“Today the team had a lack of reaction – too many games for the same players.
“We didn’t have the legs to not only defend better than we did but also to attack because we didn’t create any chances.
“I always miss important names but you have to play with the players you have. We must continue with the same 13 or 14 players. We wait for the medical reports.
“We have to bring back the six players that we have injured as soon as we can. It is not about one name, it is about the same players playing in all competitions.”
Pellegrini, who does not expect any positive news from the treatment room ahead of the Champions League match at home to Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday, refused to pinpoint a ramshackle defensive showing as the primary cause of the defeat.
“The defence is the whole team and the attack is the whole team,” he said.
“I am concerned about the two goals that we conceded and I am concerned about the few chances that we created.”