Everybody Wins From Manuel Pellegrini’s Controversial Selection
The knives, traditionalists and repetitive memes were out for Manuel Pellegrini after the Chilean removed the cloak from his teamsheet and shocked us all with the makeup of the XI he started with, but regardless of the result – for City clearly weren’t too fussed about FA Cup progression – everyone was a winner here.
Pellegrini got to appear authoritative, his key players were rested ahead of Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday, his young ones got great experience, pundits got to hold holier-than-thou debates about the importance of the FA Cup, and the competition got to dominate the sports news agenda again – not exactly where it used to be but certainly still relevant in its own way.
Other clubs have fielded shadow sides in this competition this season, of course, but it was the fact that this one came at the home of the reigning champions which made it so remarkable.
But it is Pellegrini’s right to make such calls, and if anything the final judgement over whether or not it was the correctt one will come in Kiev and against Liverpool at Wembley next week.
There Are Signs Of Life From Eden Hazard & Cesc Fabregas
The fact that he was playing against players who would probably have queued up to ask him for an autograph not too long ago certainly helped, but Eden Hazard looked back to somewhere near his very best as he buzzed around and had a hand in the first four goals – scoring the fourth himself with a precise free-kick.
Crucially appearing to want the ball far more often than he has for most of this season, the Belgian also benefitted from a vastly improved display from Cesc Fabregas, who was on the front foot all game, always looking for his killer pass and keeping things ticking over against young opponents who would have received an education.
This Chelsea season is now all about the three remaining games they could have in this competition and the second leg of the Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain, and with these two in this form they could win all of them.
Manuel Pellegrini Faces A Tough Wembley Decision On Willy Caballero
He saved Oscar’s penalty late on, but for much of this clash the experienced goalkeeper Willy Caballero appeared to be the weak link in a team full of teenagers.
The Argentinean is a favourite of Pellegrini having played for him at Malaga, but he just doesn’t seem to command any authority at the moment.
Having played in every one of City’s domestic cup games this season he’ll feel as though he deserves to start the Capital One Cup final against Liverpool next week, but can Pellegrini risk that?
Tosin Adarabioyo Looks To Have A Future
He’ll be as downhearted as any of the City players having been part of a defence which conceded five goals, but the 18-year-old local boy Tosin Adarabioyo certainly looks as though he’s got enough to forge a good career at the club.
Despite all the Sheikh Mansour millions they still crave a good local success story at the Etihad, and if he can continue his development and make the most of the raw talents he’s clearly got then City could have a centre-back to bank on in future.
Chelsea Are Going To Win The FA Cup
On the day that Tottenham Hotspur exited the tournament, Chelsea proved just why they should now be regarded as the favourites to win it.
Put simply, Guus Hiddink’s side have nothing better to do at the moment, and with Champions League glory obviously the greatest possible prize available to them this season, the quality still in that competition should ensure that this one remains the priority.
Hiddink, an FA Cup winner with Chelsea in 2009, has had a relatively easy job ever since replacing Jose Mourinho, with the description simply reading ‘don’t do what the last guy did.’
That said, guiding a squad so divided to a tangible success would be quite the achievement for the Dutchman, and one that he could – maybe should? – make a reality here.
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