A seething Manuel Pellegrini branded today’s FA Cup fifth round tie between his Manchester City team and Chelsea as ‘not a real game’, as he plans to field an inexperienced side.
With just 13 fit senior players, the Chilean’s decision to send a bunch of lambs to a probable Stamford Bridge slaughter is motivated by the Citizens’ trip to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League this week and he seemingly blames the FA for putting him in the position.
“There are some moments when you have to prioritise because you don’t receive any help and, if I didn’t, then I could damage our prospects in the Champions League. This is not a real game. I wouldn’t pay for a ticket.”
City are on offer at 15/4, but as their manager prepares to ‘prioritise’, can their greenhorns down the Premier League champions?
It is expected that five of the seven development squad players included in the traveling party will start at the Bridge.
One of them is sure to be Manu Garcia, a Spanish attacking midfielder who the club hope will succeed compatriot David Silva as the side’s schemer-in-chief.
Akin to Silva, the 18-year-old is slight of build and is a brilliantly gifted technician.
He has featured as a substitute in two of City’s Capital One Cup matches so far, scoring in the 5-1 win over Crystal Palace, and a game against Chelsea’s combative midfielders will certainly prove beneficial in the long-term.
Elsewhere, it has been suggested that Tosin Adarabioyo will deputise for fragile captain Vincent Kompany at the heart of defence.
Recognised for his commanding presence at centre-back, the 18-year-old Manchester-born stopper is perhaps the most like-for-like replacement the club has for their skipper across all departments, with physical attributes that belie his age.
Speedy winger Brandon Barker is another who is likely to start, with City unable to afford more injuries to their widemen ahead of the Kiev clash.
Barker featured four times when on loan at Rotherham in the Championship this season, so will be braced for any rough treatment Chelsea will dole out. He demonstrated his sharp eye for goal at the New York Stadium too, bagging one in his handful of appearances.
The 19-year-old is 15/4 to notch at any point of this match.