LONDON • Manuel Pellegrini insisted he had no regrets about making eight changes to his Manchester City side in the 4-2 defeat by Southampton, ahead of tomorrow's Champions League semi-final second-leg clash against Real Madrid.
The Chilean, who was frustrated Sunday's meeting with Southampton was not moved to Friday or Saturday, insisted he had no choice but to make wholesale changes and protect his key players.
"We knew before the game it was a risk to put so many players without football against a difficult team but we have to take those risks because we have an important game on Wednesday," said Pellegrini, who left star striker Sergio Aguero on the bench.
"Maybe if we had played on Saturday we could put more players but it was a risk similar to the FA Cup that we had to play.
"I would do exactly the same again because we have an important game on Wednesday that we play now for the final in the Champions League," he added of the European tie that is poised at 0-0.
"We continue in the Premier League what we are going to do in the next two games to be in the top four, so that was a risk but one we also had to take."
The loss kept City on 64 points in fourth place in the Premier League.
Pellegrini admitted the result at St Mary's stadium could affect confidence as City head to the Bernabeu.
"I always say the best way to prepare for the next game is to win and that's why we did so well before facing Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid," said the City manager.
"Today I don't know why we defended so badly in the first half, those were the two goals that decided the game.
"We scored one goal, we had another clear chance to equalise but we didn't and after that the set pieces decided the game."
Sadio Mane's hat-trick and Shane Long's opener secured victory for the Saints. Only Kelechi Iheanacho, scorer of both City goals, emerged with credit among the visitors.
Pellegrini, who confirmed he expects Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Kevin de Bruyne to be fit to face Real, added: "I'm very disappointed, especially in the defending, because we were doing well in the other games. It was the same players who played other games.
"We start thinking tomorrow about what will be the starting XI for Wednesday."
Southampton's win took them to seventh place on 57 points and strengthened their bid for a Europa League place. Manager Ronald Koeman singled out Mane for praise.
He said: "Sadio can be a bit unpredictable but he was focused and clinical. That was one of my criticisms to all of the strikers but we are very productive at home with more chances to score more.
"He is still a young player and sometimes they need to be more consistent and that is why we train and work with all the players to get a team who know what they can do."