Pellegrini defends saving key players for Madrid
MANUEL Pellegrini insisted he had no regrets about making eight changes to his Manchester City side ahead of this week's trip to face Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final.
The City manager admitted his team's 4-2 defeat against Southampton at St Mary's stadium could affect confidence as the Premier League club prepare for the visit to the Bernabeu Stadium.
But Pellegrini, who was frustrated Sunday's meeting with Southampton was not moved to Friday or Saturday to give his side more time to prepare, insisted he had no choice but to make wholesale changes and protect his key players.
"We knew before the game it was a risk to put so many players without football against a difficult team. But we have to take those risks because we have an important game on Wednesday," he said.
Pellegrini made no attempt to disguise his disappointment at his side's defensive display as Sadio Mane's hat-trick following an opening goal from Shane Long secured Southampton's victory.
But he made it clear the performance was the players' responsibility with only Kelechi Iheanacho, the scorer of both City goals, emerging with credit.
Pellegrini, who confirmed he expects Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Kevin de Bruyne to be fit to face Real, added: "It's my responsibility for the starting eleven and after that you have their performance and you must analyse everything.
"I'm very disappointed especially in the defending because we were doing well in the other games. It was the same players who played other games."
Southampton's win strengthened their bid for a Europa League place and manager Ronald Koeman singled out Mane for praise.
He said: "Sadio can be a bit unpredictable but he was focused and clinical.
"He is still a young player and sometimes they need to be more consistent.
"And that is why we train and work with all the players to get a team who knows what they can (do) and when we get problems, and that is all about development of the individual player and the development of the team."