Football

Pep defends wholesale changes in FA Cup defeat by Chelsea

Some pundits question his decision to make eight changes in defeat by Chelsea

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola defended his decision to make eight changes for his side's 1-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat by Chelsea yesterday morning (Singapore time), which ended their Quadruple bid.

The Spaniard left out Ederson, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ilkay Guendogan, Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez from the team that beat Borussia Dortmund to secure a Champions League semi-final spot last Thursday morning.

Chelsea, who booked their Champions League last-four place a day earlier, named a largely unchanged squad at Wembley, although one of their three changes, Hakim Ziyech, scored the goal which secured their FA Cup final berth.

Guardiola's decision to retain second-choice goalkeeper Zack Steffen in goal for domestic cup competitions backfired as the American was caught in no man's land when Timo Werner raced in behind and squared for Ziyech to roll into an empty net in the 55th minute.

Guardiola felt the match could have gone either way. "It was a tight game. Anything could happen," he said.

The Spaniard bristled when asked whether his decision to make wholesale changes had contributed to the defeat.

"I am delighted with what we have done so far. The amount of games we have played... and all the players make absolutely everything," he said.

"Do you think we don't pay attention in the game?"

However, some British football pundits were critical of Guardiola's decision to rotate heavily.

Ex-Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas said on BBC Radio: "There were so many changes, that had a negative impact on City.

"The front three just didn't function at all. I can't believe Guardiola didn't start his best team today."

Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres started up front for City. None of whom started against Dortmund.

Former Manchester City and England defender Micah Richards, agreed, saying on BBC One: "Eight (changes) is a little bit much. City had no spark."

Ex-England and Arsenal defender Lee Dixon added: "When Guardiola looks back at this, he'll think his team missed an opportunity.

"If City have two or three trophies at the end of the season, it'll be fine, but they'll be disappointed about this for a while."

In more disappointing news for the Citizens, talismanic midfielder Kevin de Bruyne had to go off with an apparent ankle injury in the 48th minute, with the League Cup final and Champions League semi-final, first leg looming in the next 11 days.

Said Guardiola: "It doesn't look good. He has pain... Tomorrow he will have a test."

Football