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Man City's Manuel Pellegrini vows to field weak team if FA Cup date fixed

Manuel Pellegrini threatened to play a young side if Man City's FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea remains on a Sunday.

After the manager spoke, the FA confirmed that the game will indeed be played on Sunday, Feb. 21, to accommodate a broadcast by the BBC at 4 p.m.

Pellegrini, though, would rather the game be played on the Saturday before as originally planned or moved to the Friday night, since City are planning to travel to Ukraine on Monday, Feb. 22, ahead of the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Dynamo Kiev on Feb. 24.

That in turn comes just four days before the Capital One Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley.

The matter is complicated, however, because Chelsea's neighbours Fulham play in the Championship at 3 p.m. on that Saturday and police would be unwilling to sanction another kick-off close to that time.

Playing on Friday, Feb. 19, was another possibility, but that might have run the risk of complaints from Chelsea who play in the Champions League themselves at Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Man City are scheduled to face Chelsea in the FA Cup fifth round after beating Aston Villa last weekend.

Pellegrini said: "I'm very worried for a lot of things. First and foremost, if we have to play that game on that Sunday, we will not play with our [full-strength] team, we will play with a young team.

"We have to travel to Ukraine on Monday, so I don't see any reason why we can't play on the Saturday. Chelsea play their Champions League game on the Tuesday before.

"So if we have to play on the Sunday, we will have to see which players will have to play.

"I don't want to analyse why, but I think if we have to play against Chelsea four days before, we should play on the Saturday.

"If we play on the Sunday, we have to put Manchester City's interests first. For me, I must do what I feel is best for the club, to play with the strongest team we can in the Champions League.

"Also, if we continue in the FA Cup, we will have to postpone two Premier League games, and there is no option to play those games in midweek."

Press Association Sport reported Man City will send a letter of complaint to senior figures at the FA about the move to Sunday, with sources at the club feeling City are not being supported sufficiently by the authorities for respecting all the competitions and for representing the English game in Europe.

A statement from the BBC read: "Despite continued efforts to schedule Manchester City's FA Cup fifth-round visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, conflicting fixtures and safety concerns meant this was not possible, so Sunday was the only slot available."

The FA did later comment, explaining the difficulties it faced. An FA spokesperson said: "The FA has worked closely with our broadcast partners and various public bodies to explore all avenues when arranging the Emirates FA Cup fifth-round schedule, however, with multiple teams playing in Europe on consecutive weeks it was very difficult to manage the ties in a way to suit everyone.

There are some fantastic fifth-round ties and the FA and its broadcast partners want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to view these games. Almost six million watched Derby's fourth-round tie with Manchester United and more than six million saw Exeter host Liverpool in round three."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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