Manchester City's Lineup Merry-Go-Round Leaves Sky Blues Feeling Nauseous

Phil KeidelContributor IIJanuary 4, 2014

There was plenty of exasperation for City's skeleton crew.
There was plenty of exasperation for City's skeleton crew.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini tinkered himself right into the one result he probably least wanted in City's third round FA Cup match against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

Pellegrini has recently bemoaned the number of matches City are compelled to play in compressed periods of time. Thanks to the hodgepodge XI he put out against Rovers, one more unwanted match has found its way onto City's cramped schedule.

Look at the XI Pellegrini chose:

Pellegrini held out Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart in an effort to rest and protect them. The gambit failed miserably.

Hart's replacement, Costel Pantilimon, made a misplay that led to Rovers' tying goal, per "(Rudy) Gestede rose high to meet a Ben Marshall corner with a powerful header and Pantilimon could not hold it. (Scott) Dann rushed in to sweep past him from close range."

Zabaleta's stand-in, Dedryck Boyata, was targeted by Rovers all day and was sent off in the 85th minute, forcing City to play with ten men to defend a draw they may not have much wanted in the first place.

As if all that were not enough, Pellegrini was compelled to use Toure and Zabaleta after allToure for nearly a full third of the match, Zabaleta in the harried and disadvantaged final minutes.

Going forward, Pellegrini must go one of two ways in matches like this FA Cup third round tie that the season's success as a whole does not strictly hinge on.

Either Pellegrini should choose something approximating his best XI with the intent of snuffing the threat out quickly and efficiently, or he should rest all of his stars and starters and live with the enhanced probability of defeat.

Surely David Silva, Fernandinho and Matija Nastasic cannot feel as though their manager did them any favors by running them out with lesser colleagues against a highly-motivated Rovers side defending their home pitch.

Pellegrini's overplay with squad rotation has now left him with one more unwanted match—a replay against Rovers at Etihad Stadium—and uncomfortable questions to answer about his man management.

Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Manchester City brings to mind the old aphorism by late American football coach Woody Hayes about the forward pass; three things can happen and two of them (incompletion and interception) are bad.

For City, only a win against Rovers would truly have sufficed. But at least a loss would have saved their legs and their lungs for the coming onslaught of matches that really matter in the Champions League knockout stage and the Premier League's home stretch.

Maybe Pellegrini will at least try to win the replay.