Pellegrini defends his team selection ahead of Real test
Manuel Pellegrini has claimed that he acted in Manchester City’s best interests by resting so many star players against Southampton ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid – and is adamant that he would take the same gamble again.
City made eight changes from the team who held Madrid to a goalless draw in the first leg, with Pellegrini claiming that he could have fielded a different team had City been granted their wish to play this match on Saturday.
Southampton would also have been happy to make the switch in support of City’s European ambitions but, providing there is a window of at least two days, the final decision on scheduling lies with the broadcasters.
“I’m very disappointed – it was the same players who played other games,” said Pellegrini. “We knew before the game it was a risk to put so many players without football against a difficult team but we have to take those risks. If we had played on Saturday we could put more players out. I was disappointed with the team. It’s my responsibility for the starting XI. I always say the best way to prepare for the next game is to win – and that’s why we did so well before Paris St- Germain.”
With Pellegrini leaving at the end of the season, there could be a suspicion that he is prioritising the Champions League over qualification for next season, when Pep Guardiola will be in charge.
Asked if the decision to rest so many players was the right one, he said: “Yes. I would do exactly the same again because we have an important game. We play for the final in the Champions League. We continue in the Premier League what we are going to do in the next two games to be in the top four, so that was a risk but one we had to take.”
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman described his team’s performance as “fantastic” but revealed that Graziano Pellè, the Italy striker, had been dropped as a result of his training-ground performances. “I was not happy about the intensity of Graziano this week,” he said. “I like to be straight with everybody. We will see what happens next week.”
Koeman added: “You can talk about the changes of Man City in the team, but that’s not fair. Give all the credit to Southampton because the performance today was fantastic. We’re always confident to beat our opponents, maybe a little more when we’re at home.
“It’s difficult to deal with a Premier League game between two huge games against Real Madrid. They still need more points to finish fourth but that’s not my responsibility. It’s normal that maybe there’s a little bit less focus. Even if City had started with their best team, we had possibilities to win because we were at our best this afternoon.”