NORWICH, United Kingdom, Jan 8, (AFP): Manuel Pellegrini faces an FA Cup selection dilemma at Norwich on Saturday as he attempts to keep Manchester City on track in four competitions.
Pellegrini has indicated the FA Cup is bottom of his priority list in the midst of a testing January schedule that consists of a minimum of seven matches, and potentially as many as nine.
City’s manager has even gone as far as to suggest that his side will struggle to find time to play all of their fixtures if they reach the finals of all three cup competitions.
A run in the Champions League is a genuine prospect thanks to a kind draw, while Pellegrini’s team can reach Wembley in the League Cup by overturning a 2-1 semi-final first-leg deficit against Everton at the end of this month.
With the focus on those two competitions in addition to a Premier League challenge, Pellegrini will give some consideration to squad rotation as his team travel to Norwich for Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie.
In the Chilean’s mind, winning a quadruple of the Champions League, the Premier League and England’s two major cup competitions is impossible.
“It’s a lot of games. If you ask me, I always prefer to play in all the competitions,” Pellegrini said.
“But I am worried about the FA Cup, because after the early rounds, you start having to postpone your Premier League games to continue in the tournament.
“I am not sure if you can continue in all the competitions. I think if you play in the semi-final of the FA Cup and you are in the semi-final of the Champions League, then you don’t have time to play all of your Premier League games.”
While the fixture schedulers would surely find time to squeeze in all of City’s games somewhere, Pellegrini’s point is that pushing for success on four fronts is bound to result in a failure somewhere along the line.
Their recent form suggests the strain may be showing; just two wins from their last five fixtures in all competitions, culminating in Wednesday’s League Cup defeat at Goodison Park.
City’s defence continues to look vulnerable in the absence of their captain Vincent Kompany with a calf injury, with Martin Demichelis at fault for allowing Romelu Lukaku the space to head Everton’s first-leg winner.
Pellegrini, though, feels he has the attacking talent to hurt Norwich, even if he decides to rest Argentina forward Sergio Aguero, who is still regaining full fitness after a heel injury.
“We’ve got good players in the squad. But the way we play, our mentality, we give chances but we also create a lot of chances. If our players get chances, normally they will score,” he said.
A run of three wins from their last four games means Norwich go into the tie with renewed belief after easing their Premier League relegation concerns.
A successful holiday period means they sit six points clear of the bottom three, easing the pressure that was beginning to build at Carrow Road and allowing them to view the meeting with Pellegrini’s side as a more welcome distraction.
The game also marks the first anniversary of Alex Neil taking charge of the club after moving south from Scottish club Hamilton.
May’s Championship final win was a high point and the manager believes the club is moving in the right direction.
“To get back-to-back wins is very important. It takes pressure off the games coming up and we need to approach them in the same manner,” he said.
“Belief comes with wins, that is the bottom line. People might watch you, you don’t play well and lose and everybody will write you off but if you can get a bit of momentum it is massive.
“We have found a nice balance at the moment, we are looking threatening going forward and that is now two clean sheets.”