Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini maintained his stance that he will field a weakened side for Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Chelsea.
League Cup finalists City remain in the hunt for honours across four competitions, although their Premier League title hopes have been dealt a body blow by back-to-back home defeats to top two Leicester City and Tottenham.
Before these matches, Pellegrini said the decision to move the Stamford Bridge tie to a Sunday kick-off for television coverage would impact upon his team selection, with City facing Dynamo Kiev in the last 16 of the Champions League next Wednesday.
City’s poor recent run does not appear to have prompted a re-think, with Pellegrini citing injury problems that leave him with 13 fully fit senior outfield players and a need to prioritise the Champions League.
“We have 13 players available to play and have to play in the Champions League on Wednesday,” he told a news conference. “We’ll see the best team we can play on Sunday.
“We always try to play with a strong team in every competition. They are all important but we must prioritise the Champions League.
“We couldn’t play on the Saturday for some reason, so we will put out the best team we can.
“Young players have the option and they must take their chances. We normally have some young players in the cup – one or two maximum.
“I hope with the team we play against Chelsea they make the performance that we know they can.”
Bersant Celina is a candidate for a first senior start in attack alongside Kelechi Iheanacho, while teenage midfield duo Aleix Garcia and Manu Garcia are also expected to feature having been unused substitutes in City’s last Premier League match.
Pellegrini welcomed Bacary Sagna back into light training after 10 days out with a knee problem, but Wilfried Bony (calf), Jesus Navas (hamstring), Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Samir Nasri (thigh) and Fabian Delph (knee) remain sidelined.
“We always try to play with a strong team in every competition as they are all important – especially the FA Cup,” he added. “We had two difficult draws against Premier League teams away [Norwich City and Aston Villa in rounds three and four] and won 3-0 and 4-0.
“It’s not so difficult to change one day of one game – if they can do it in other leagues, they can do it here.
“For me always the priority is the next game but we must make an exception now because of so many injuries. After that, we have to play a really important 180 minutes against Kiev.”
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