Manuel Pellegrini Makes Wholesale Changes as Manchester City Progress
With such a strong set of players to choose from, Manuel Pellegrini will find it difficult to keep everyone in his squad happy this season. Important games in the Premier League and Champions League come thick and fast, making it difficult for him to rotate his squad too much for fear of losing momentum. The Capital One Cup, however, gives him licence to make wholesale changes.
Only Javi Garcia kept his place from the side that lost to Chelsea on Sunday as City beat Newcastle 2-0 in extra time to progress to the quarter-finals of England's secondary cup competition. It allowed the likes of Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Edin Dzeko the chance to shine, and with City looking to compete on multiple fronts this season, keeping fringe players active is vitally important.
As expected, Costel Pantilimon started in goal, and he kept a clean sheet, including one excellent save from Papiss Cisse's shot in extra-time. It wasn't a vintage goalkeeping performance from Pantilimon, but he was decent nonetheless, and it seems evermore likely he will start his first league game for City in the match at home to Norwich on Saturday.
Stevan Jovetic, a player the City fans are desperate to see more of, started the game but lasted less than 10 minutes, as he was substituted after suffering another injury. His City career has been hampered badly by niggling muscle injuries, preventing him from getting any kind of rhythm going.
Two goals for Montenegro in their match with Moldova a fortnight ago seemed to signal a return to full fitness, but it seems his luck with injuries is out. It was difficult not to feel sorry for him as he trudged despondently towards the bench to be replaced by Alvaro Negredo. He's a talented player—he just hasn't had the opportunity to show it.
Likewise, Jack Rodwell started for just the second time this season. Rodwell is a player with great potential, but he is one that struggles with injury. He's tried yoga classes and driving a different car (amongst many other weird and wacky initiatives) in an attempt to ease his hamstring woes. but nothing has worked. He was impressive, with his great range of passing on show once more, and hopefully he can remain fit for the rest of the season.
Dzeko scored an excellent goal and made another, giving him a much-needed confidence boost, while Milner demonstrated again that he can always be relied upon. Milner, who has been used sparingly under Pellegrini, has a knack of forcing his way into the team eventually, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he did it again under the Chilean.
Lescott was another player who desperately needed this match. He has struggled at times this season, and he has been left out of the first-team picture in recent weeks, but he will benefit from 120 minutes of first-team football and a confidence-building clean sheet.
Sergio Aguero, who's been in superb form in recent weeks, was left out of the squad completely in order to ensure he is fully fit for the weekend. As was Yaya Toure, who looked tired on Sunday. Both players have been influential for City this season, and Pellegrini was taking no chances with two of his biggest players
With David Silva playing just an hour, and Fernandinho an unused sub, City have progressed without impacting on their most important players of the last few weeks.
City now travel to Leicester for a quarter-final tie which will no doubt see fringe players get another opportunity to play. It's a competition that allows those who aren't involved regularly to keep sharp and maintain match fitness, and if they can keep progressing, they could well find themselves in a final at Wembley come March.
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