London - Manuel Pellegrini refused to
apologise for his controversial decision to field a team of youngsters after
Manchester City were dumped out of the FA Cup with a 5-1 thrashing at Chelsea.
Pellegrini stood accused of disrespecting
the famous old competition as he selected six teenagers, with five making their
full debuts, and then watched them suffer City's heaviest defeat since their
Abu Dhabi-based owners bought the club in 2008.
With City due to play their Champions
League last 16 first leg tie at Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday and then face
Liverpool in the League Cup final on Sunday, Pellegrini felt forced to turn to
his raw rookies because the FA had refused to listen to his plea to stage the
fifth round tie on Saturday instead of bowing to television demands to play it
But, asked about his decision to
effectively gift wrap Chelsea's quarter-final place, the City manager was
unrepentant and insisted more should be done to help English clubs competing in
the Champions League.
"I don't think I need to defend
myself. We played two rounds before against Premier League teams and won by
playing the best players we had at that moment," Pellegrini said.
"In England one of the most important
things we must do is try to help the teams in the Champions League.
"If we have 20 fit players then maybe
I can take the risk. It's important for young players to play.
"It's never good to lose 5-1, maybe
it's not the best thing to put them in all together but we had no choice.
"If one team respects all the cups
it's this team. That's why we are in the League Cup final."
After several seasons of underachievement
in Europe, City have a good opportunity to reach the Champions League
quarter-finals for the first time and Pellegrini had no qualms about
sacrificing the FA Cup to achieve that aim.
Success in Europe has been high on the
to-do list of City's wealthy owners for years but Pellegrini, battling with
injuries to 13 players at present, said the selection move was his alone.
"I always take the best
decision," he said. "The Champions League is not more important than
the FA Cup. Of course the FA Cup is special but we have several players
"It was impossible to take the risk of
playing our senior players in case another one gets injured.
"We have an option to reach the
quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in the club's
"I think with 13 players not fully
fit, my decision makes sense."
While Pellegrini has never won the FA Cup,
Guus Hiddink knows the special feeling of lifting the trophy after leading
Chelsea to victory in the 2009 final during his first spell as the Blues'
Now back for a second spell as Chelsea's
caretaker, Hiddink admitted it was unfortunate when teams of City's standing
felt compelled to sacrifice the Cup in favour of chasing other trophies.
"The programme for many clubs is
rather harsh, but when you have a squad of quality players you must not forget
the tradition of English football," Hiddink said.
"Many people are focused on the FA
Cup. Winning it is beautiful. We must be careful not to devalue this."
Hiddink's side will travel to Everton in
the quarter-finals in a rerun of the final he won seven years ago.
The Dutchman would love to sign off with
another Wembley victory and said Chelsea are targeting success in the cups
after a poor season in the Premier League.
"There's not much left in the league
for Chelsea," Hiddink said.
"I have good memories of the Cup but
that is the past. Everton will remember that final as well and they will go for