FEATURE: Manuel Pellegrini Looks Ahead to Chelsea and Barcelona

There’s always the temptation, particularly in the media, to hype up the importance of certain games and periods in a season, but this week doesn’t need hyperbole, it’s genuinely huge for the club.

The decision to postpone Wednesday’s match at home to Sunderland, I think, suits us. With the injuries we have and with Chelsea on Saturday, I think the extra rest will do us a favour. The only negative, of course, is the threat of a fixture pile up. Our League Cup final appearance has already seen the game against United at Old Trafford put back, and with our involvement in other competitions continuing (for now), we could end up with a backlog.

Pellegrini himself made this point today, saying:

Both things are good and bad. It is better to have more rest because we have two important games on Saturday and Tuesday but also as we postponed the game, we are going to have a lot of games during midweeks at the end of the season. We have postponed Sunderland, we have postponed Manchester United for the final of the Capital One, we will see tomorrow if we continue in the FA Cup, we must postpone one game more against Aston Villa, so we have a lot of games more at the end of the season. But I think the way it was, it was impossible to play.

Chelsea on Saturday is vital, primarily because we want to win the FA Cup, but also from the point of view of Pellegrini, who, quite rightly, can’t stand Mourinho, yet has suffered two tough defeats to his side this season already. His record of one win in nine over Mourinho is constantly put to him at press conferences, and it would be nice for him to start reversing the trend.

Having just listened to the manager speak at his press conference ahead of the game, it seems unlikely he will alter the formation, something many observers have called for after Chelsea (Matic, in particular) dominated the midfield in the recent league defeat. Pellegrini says it wasn’t a tactical problem, and therefore expect the 4-2-2-2 formation to be used on Saturday.

I don’t think the way Chelsea played is the way Chelsea always play. I don’t think it is the reason why we didn’t win that game. They played very well, we didn’t play very well. We missed three clear options to score before and after they [scored] they defended very well. I don’t think it is a reason to change the way we play.

Samir Nasri is back, a huge boost for us given his form this season. Jamie Jackson from the Guardian asked Pellegrini whether he was tempted to keep Nasri out of the action this weekend to save him for Barcelona, but he rebutted the idea, instead suggesting that some playing time is more important than rest for a player’s recovery. So expect him to be involved.

Written by Rob Pollard

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