Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Rivals Have an Advantage ; Fixture Schedule Plays into Hands of Chelsea and Barcelona, Insists the City Boss as He Prepares for Gruelling Run-In to the Season

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Rivals Have an Advantage ; Fixture Schedule Plays into Hands of Chelsea and Barcelona, Insists the City Boss as He Prepares for Gruelling Run-In to the Season

Article excerpt

MANUEL Pellegrini is fearful injuries and a hectic schedule will derail City's bid for silverware this season.

City face Norwich at Carrow Road today before Sunderland visit the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Pellegrini's team then play Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round in an evening kick-off on February 15 and Barcelona in the Champions League 72 hours later.

The City manager has ruled Aguero out of the first leg against Barcelona with the Argentine striker struggling to overcome a hamstring injury.

The Chilean also insists it will be 'difficult' for Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho to recover in time after he suffered a muscle injury in training.

Pellegrini admitted that because the games against Chelsea and Barcelona have been scheduled so close together he may have to field an 'alternative' team in the FA Cup.

After playing City, Chelsea don't play the first leg of their Champions League tie with Galatasaray until February 26.

Pellegrini said: "Of course there is an advantage for Chelsea and for Barcelona. For us it's a question of which game is more important. It's very important in that sense.

"I don't know how you can do it because we've got so many matches to play so it's very difficult.

I don't know how you can work the calendar without one team having an advantage some weeks.

"Every club in the Premier League who are in the Champions League, it's good for English football.

"So it's better for English football if those teams have the opportunity to play not so near to the Champions League games.

"It's important to give importance to the cup. At this moment I have to decide which game will be more important and maybe it's Barcelona. Maybe we will put an alternative team out against Chelsea."

Pellegrini has seen Vincent Kompany, Stevan Jovetic, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernandinho and Aguero all suffer muscle strains at different times this season.

And the City manager hinted it was a symptom of the increased number of games in England compared to Spain, who also have a winter break - and speculated in could give Barcelona an advantage in their Champions League tie.

Pellegrini said: "It's very difficult to know the exact reason (for the injuries). …

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