LONDON • A furious Manchester City have written to the Football Association (FA) to complain about the scheduling of their FA Cup fifth-round tie against Chelsea this month. The club called on the game's power brokers to address the fixture congestion they believe is damaging English football.
In a strongly-worded letter by Ferran Soriano, the City chief executive, to FA chairman Greg Dyke, the club have accused the sport's governing body of refusing to listen properly to their case and of failing to communicate adequately. They also raised grave concerns about the process since the draw was made last week.
City - who are still in contention for four trophies - believe they are being unfairly penalised and have urged the authorities to conduct a serious review of the "ridiculous" fixture backlog that they are convinced is harming the prospects of success domestically and in Europe.
The FA confirmed on Friday that the Cup tie at Stamford Bridge will take place at 4pm on Saturday, Feb 21, the day before City are due to fly to Ukraine for the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Dynamo Kiev on Feb 24.
City wanted to play the game on the Friday night after police in London ruled out the possibility of it being played on the Saturday at 5pm because Fulham, Chelsea's neighbours, play in the Championship against Charlton Athletic two hours earlier.
It has left Manuel Pellegrini, who has a record of fielding strong teams in the FA Cup and League Cup, adamant that he has no alternative but to play a severely weakened side against Chelsea, against his wishes.
With six senior players out injured, the City manager believes he has to prioritise the Champions League. Winning Europe's elite club competition represents the height of the big-spending club's ambitions but they have never been past the round of 16.
"I'm very worried for a lot of reasons," Pellegrini said. "We will not play with our (strongest) team (against Chelsea), we will play with a young team because we have to travel to Ukraine on Monday.
"I think for me I must do what is better for the club and I think it's better to try to play with the strongest team in the Champions League. Of course (it will upset me to play a weakened team). My way is to try and play in every competition with the best team. I think it's a serious competition and not a competition you can throw away."
With four games in 11 days, City are adamant that they should have been granted some leniency by the FA.
After Chelsea and Kiev, City play Liverpool in the League Cup final at Wembley on Feb 28 and then the Merseyside club again three days later at Anfield. They already have a postponed league game against Newcastle United to reschedule.
THE TIMES, LONDON