When Chelsea were drawn to face Manchester City in the upcoming round of FA Cup play, it was immediately a must-watch fixture, even with as poorly as this season has been going for the Blues. Unfortunately, it sounds as if Manchester City's upcoming schedule might lead to a somewhat less star powered match than we had hoped.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini is upset with the way the schedule was made, with his side being scheduled to fly to Ukraine on Monday, and playing in the League Cup Final next weekend at Wembley. Here's what he had to say about the situation, and hinting that we might see a very unusual lineup on Sunday:
"I think unfortunately at this moment we have just 13 [senior outfield] players available to play. We have to play Champions League on Wednesday, so we’ll see what will be the best team we can put on the pitch for the FA Cup."
"I said a couple of weeks ago if you want to protect the English team in the Champions League the game was [played on] Saturday – but for different reasons we couldn’t play that day. We always try to play with a strong team in every competition – every competition is important, especially the FA Cup."
"We have had two difficult draws against Premier League teams in the two rounds before, but we won 4-0 and 3-0, so we are very interested in continuing in this cup. But we must prioritize the Champions League. The priority is [usually] the next game but maybe we are going to make an exception now because of the amount of players we have injured."
"Something is not correct in that cup. It is impossible at this moment to continue to the final of the FA Cup. We cannot play the three games we must have postponed. It’s not a [make-or-] break point but it’s a very important week because we can win the first title of the season and we are going to try to qualify for the first time for the quarter-finals of the Champions League."
This sort of thing has been complained about before, and frankly, I have a hard time disagreeing with the Chilean manager. The FA generally does a terrible job scheduling matches to help the country's largest clubs do well in Europe, and the FA Cup just isn't important enough to prioritize over a League Cup final, a Champions League match, or even a single Premier League fixture. As much as this will likely anger City fans to see, Pellegrini is probably justified in running a youth side out there, as far as I'm concerned.
Given that Chelsea have been so poor this season, this is probably great news in terms of increasing our chances at silverware, as well. Even following an excellent performance in the loss against PSG, the Blues can use all the help they can get, as they aim for Arsenal-esque levels of success.