Manuel Pellegrini has insisted that there will be no great alteration to Manchester City’s attacking style when they take on Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round at the Etihad on Saturday. The two sides met less than two weeks ago when Chelsea recorded an impressive 1-0 win after repeatedly exposing their opponents’ forward intent on the break. Despite their selection of two men up front also being crudely exposed against Bayern Munich, Pellegrini sees no reason for significant changes, although he admits that his team can’t be left so vulnerable this time around.
“They played very well, we didn’t play so well,” he said, according to Manchester City’s official website. “We missed three clear options to score before and after they defended very well, but I don’t think that’s a reason to change the way we play.
“We know the important players that Chelsea have and the way they play. From the other game, we know also that we have to try not to be very open on the counter attack. Maybe we made some mistakes in defending and attacking and I hope that tomorrow we can arrange it. But we’re not changing our style because we play against Chelsea.”
With Sergio Aguero still out, Pellegrini would seem to have the ideal opportunity to revert from playing two strikers, especially with Samir Nasri back in contention. The attacking midfielder has been missing for six weeks with a knee injury, but Pellegrini has confirmed that both he and Javi Garcia have returned to fitness in time to take on Chelsea. Aguero, though, joins Fernandinho and Matija Nastasic in remaining on the sidelines, with all three also likely to miss the first leg of City’s Champions League last-16 tie with Barcelona on Tuesday.
The fact that City have had the week off, following the postponement of their match with Sunderland on Wednesday, should encourage Pellegrini to play a strong side despite the clash with Barcelona looming large in everyone’s minds.
Chelsea had no such luxury of a midweek off, having suffered the disappointment of conceding a late equalizer to West Brom. It means that, despite the seeming significance of Chelsea’s win at the Etihad at the start of this month, City will go level on points with the Blues should they win their game in hand.
The draw at the Hawthorns came at further cost, with Gary Cahill suffering a calf injury. And Jose Mourinho fears that the England international could join fellow central defender John Terry on the sidelines.
“John [Terry] is not back,” he said of the Chelsea captain who has missed the last two games. “I think Cahill is out. He injured his calf against West Brom. He tried to train today but he didn't finish the training session in the best conditions. He is going for a scan to be sure if he can or he can't [play].”
If Cahill is ruled out along with Terry then it is likely to mean Branislav Ivanovic moving to center-back, Cesar Azpilicueta moving over to the right and Ashley Cole coming in to make his first appearance in five games. Mark Schwarzer is expected to be handed the gloves, having been the goalkeeper of choice in the domestic cup competitions this season, while Fernando Torres may get a first start since injury after returning off the bench against West Brom.
Chelsea surprised many last time at the Etihad with just how intent they were on committing men forward to exploit City’s weaknesses. Despite the prospect of a draw securing a replay at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho claims that his side will again be going there to claim another win.
“No two games are the same but is our approach the same? Are we going there to try to win in spite of the fact we know we are going to play against the best team in this country? Yes, our approach is the same,” he said, according to Chelsea’s official website.
“We analyzed the game step by step and they had chances, our keeper played well. The game was very equal. You can try to read the previous game and try to improve things. You can try to analyst mistakes and the opposition, you can be influenced by the direction a game took. They will be strong even if they change their team or the way they play.
“We don't want a replay, we don't need a replay. We are not going there to try to get a draw and bring the game to Stamford Bridge. We want to try to win.”
Where to watch: The FA Cup fifth round tie will kick off at 12.15 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 2, with a live stream available via a free trial to Fox Soccer 2Go.