Manuel Pellegrini says Manchester City respect the FA Cup but had no choice but to field a weakened team in their fifth-round defeat at Chelsea.
City made nine changes and fielded six teenagers – five of them making their full debuts – in Sunday’s 5-1 reserve at Chelsea, who next play Everton in the quarter-finals.
Pellegrini’s men play Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Wednesday and the Capital One Cup final against Liverpool next Sunday, with the City boss believing he was left with no option but to make wholesale changes.
“If one team respects all the cups it’s this team,” said Pellegrini.
“That’s why we are in the final of the Capital One Cup, that’s why we won the two previous games in this cup. Today we couldn’t because I think we have more important things at this moment.
“I think one of the most important things that we must do here in England is to try to help English teams playing (in the) Champions League.
“We cannot take the risk. I have just 13 players (available) at this moment.”
Pressed on why the FA Cup was considered less of a priority than Europe, Pellegrini added: “It’s not more important.
“I don’t think I need to defend (the selection). We played two rounds before and we had in both rounds a draw with Premier League teams and we won 4-0 and 3-0 (against Aston Villa and Norwich).
“The FA Cup, yes, of course (is special). (But) we have at this moment seven players injured. It’s impossible for us to take the risk to play in both competitions.
“We are just in the fifth round of the competition. If we continue in the FA Cup, we don’t have time to have games postponed to play for now until the end of the season.
“We have an option for the first time in our club to try to reach the quarter-final of the Champions League. With 13 players (available), not to prioritise, it’s a sensible decision.”
Pellegrini was adamant the decision was his after City, who fly to Ukraine on Monday bidding to bounce back from three straight losses, explored every avenue to have the date of the game changed.
“I always take the best decision for the club,” he added.
“We tried to do all that we could. It was impossible.”
Just 90 seconds after going behind to Diego Costa’s opener, City equalised through David Faupala, one of the five full debutants, and it was 1-1 at half-time before Chelsea’s second-half blitz.
However, Willian and Gary Cahill scored within eight minutes of the restart before Eden Hazard and substitute Bertrand Traore added goals.
Chelsea also had a penalty, but Oscar’s effort was saved by Willy Caballero.
Pellegrini added: “We played with six young players, but I was very happy. Unfortunately for us in five minutes we threw away what we did. At 3-1 it was very difficult.
“It’s never good to lose 5-1. I was not happy about the score. (But) I think we have a lot of positive things about young players.”