Pellegrini delighted with City stroll as they prepare for Real Madrid clash
Blues cruise past Stoke 4-0 and rest key players
Manuel Pellegrini hailed the perfect preparation for Manchester City as they routed Stoke 4-0 ahead of their Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid on Tuesday.
Pellegrini’s side cruised back into third place in the Premier League and nearer guaranteed qualification for next season’s Champions League with a dominant display at Eastlands on Saturday.
And they were also able to rest key players in readiness for the visit of 10-times European champions Real to Manchester.
“It was very important to have our mind focused on this game and not on Tuesday,” Pellegrini said.
“We did exactly the same before Paris Saint Germain [in the quarter-finals] and played a good game against Bournemouth.
“That is the best way [to prepare]. Always the most important thing is the result and to score four goals and have a clean sheet is very important.
“But we play eight games in 30 days so it was also very important to have some rotations.”
Pellegrini left out Fernandinho and captain Vincent Kompany but both will be available on Tuesday, with Kompany in full training following his comeback from a month out with his latest calf injury in last Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Newcastle.
“For Vincent it was a risk to play two games in 72 hours. If he had played today he will maybe have some problems on Tuesday. It was better for him not to take the risk today,” Pellegrini added.
The City boss was also able to leave both Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling on the bench as City strolled to a fourth win in five league games thanks to goals from Fernando, a Sergio Aguero penalty and Kelechi Iheanacho’s second-half double.
Aguero was replaced after little more than an hour after scoring his 23rd league goal of the season, which puts him one behind Tottenham’s Harry Kane in the race for the golden boot.
And play-maker David Silva was given 57 minutes to get up to speed after two matches out with his on-going ankle problem.
Fernando was replaced late on but should shake off a minor knock, with only Yaya Toure a slight doubt and requiring a medical check after he collected a thigh injury.
City will face Real on the back of one of their best runs of the season, with Iheanacho’s two goals taking his tally for the season to 11 and giving Pellegrini the added option of a further in-form striker for City’s first ever Champions League semi-final.
The 19-year-old, who now has five league goals in just four starts this season, looks to have a bright future and is in City’s Champions League squad after replacing the injured Samir Nasri ahead of the knock-out rounds.
“He scored two goals and received a penalty. I am very pleased. He has a very important contribution, and not just for this game,” Pellegrini said.
“Kelechi will have an important role in this club in the next years. He is not only a striker who scores goals in the box. He contributes in the way the team plays.
“All the players have a chance (to feature against Real). He can be involved in every game.”
Stoke have now won just one of their last seven games to slip out of contention for a place in next season’s Europa League.
They have conceded 12 goals in their last three games and manager Mark Hughes delivered further bad news when confirming that midfielder Ibrahim Afellay suffered a ruptured knee cartilage in training on Friday and will be out for up to nine months.
“We are disappointed with the performance and the scoreline,” Hughes said.
“Once again we conceded too readily. It’s been three poor games and three poor results.
“But it would be wrong to define our season on what we are producing at the moment.”