Whether he knew it or not, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini took all his eggs and put them in two baskets with his most recent XI.
Pellegrini withheld Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho and Joe Hart from the action in City's loss to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarter-final. David Silva played less than a half, as did Edin Dzeko. Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas both left after 53 minutes.
The manager's personnel alchemy yielded a sour, unsatisfactory brew, and City are now out of the FA Cup.
Not surprisingly, Pellegrini is putting the happiest spin possible on an unsavory result, one that tarnished the shine the recent Capital One Cup win provided.
"First we must try to win in Barcelona and then continue to try to reach the top of the (Premier League) table with the three games we have in hand," Pellegrini said recently per ESPNFC.com.
As for how his team would respond to the shock loss to Wigan, Pellegrini spun that question even harder: "Winning always gives you confidence but maybe a game like this can bring a reaction from the team. It could be positive."
Well, when Pellegrini puts it that way, maybe City should lose more often!
Will City shake up the world at Barcelona and advance?
With the cup runs now finished, the Premier League title and the Champions League are all City have left to play for. Had City's FA Cup run continued—even with a draw and replay against Wigan—the focus on City's task at Camp Nou would be a shade dimmer.
Instead, City face the very real prospect of failing to climb out of the 2-0 hole (away goals for Barcelona, no less) they dug for themselves at the Etihad.
If City do not advance—and the odds against them doing it are as high as 14-to-1, per Oddschecker.com—talk of the quadruple that was possible as recently as 72 hours ago will seem quaint and almost sad.
You can count on one thing, though.
City will go down with the best XI they have. You can say this definitively, because Martin Demichelis' red card in the first leg of this tie means he is banned from the second leg. So there's a silver lining, at least.
City's predicted XI against Barcelona: Joe Hart; Gael Clichy, Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, Pablo Zabaleta; Samir Nasri, David Silva, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas; Sergio Aguero.