Rotation proves costly as City miss out on FA Cup final - Chelsea 1-0 Manchester City Review
Manchester City's quadruple bid came to an abrupt end as the blues were bitterly underwhelming in their 1-0 defeat to Chelsea, who dominated from start to finish. The loss now means that a historic quadruple bid is not a possibility and Guardiola's side have to dramatically improve if they are to win any of the other three left, with the Premier League still not wrapped up.
Chelsea were the quicker side out of the blocks and caused City problems from minute one, with the side denied by a marginal offside flag in the fifth minute to stop them from taking the lead. As the half went on there was majorly nothing to report from a City perspective as the blues were genuinely horrific for a good portion of the game. Not having any other creators around De Bruyne was proving to be the blues' downfall and when the Belgian was taken off early into the second half, the blues were forced into changes that didn't really change anything either. Chelsea's late disallowed goal from Pulisic was the stamp on a disgraceful defensive performance.
Hakim ZIyech was denied earlier in the contest but he wasn't to be denied this time. Early into the half, Timo Werner was found totally alone again on the right-hand side as he exposed Ruben Dias and broke through to square it for Hakim Ziyech who had the easiest of tap ins. Moments later, Zack Steffen was forced into a huge save as City looked totally clueless at the back. Raheem Sterling was utterly awful again throughout the contest and City now turn attentions to Aston Villa before facing Tottenham in another final next weekend.
Pep Guardiola made eight changes from the team that reached the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night. Ederson was rotated for cup goalkeeper Zack Steffen, whilst only Ruben Dias kept his place in defence. John Stones, Alex Zinchenko and Kyle Walker all dropped out, whilst there was no place for Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden or Riyad Mahrez in midfield & attack.
City XI: Steffen, Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Mendy, Rodri, Fernandinho (C), De Bruyne, Torres, G.Jesus, Sterling (4-3-3)
Rotation policy? Is it an issue?
Pep Guardiola made eight changes from the side that beat Dortmund and that took its toll early on a City side that just didn't appear to be on the same wavelength as each other. When the players that come in are out of form it doesn't help either and Raheem Sterling was seriously underwhelming yet again, and it's proving to be a cause for major concern. Pep brought back old habits in the loss to Leeds last weekend and today was an awful taste of his defensive pick 'n' mix, with three changes in the back five leading to a frail display on that front. Fernandinho looked appalling in midfield and overall, it was a mix of lack of form and a lack of chemistry between players that have barely played together that was always a recipe for disaster. Considering Guardiola dubbed his centre-back partnership of John Stones and Ruben Dias 'untouchable' in January and February, he's clearly ditched that now and is rotating far too much. He rotated heavily for Leeds and we lost, he's done it again and the outcome was the same. I've said it in the past and again I'll enforce my view: We had a starting XI that was cohesive and it's no coincidence that when the team was majorly the same, we went on a 21-match winning run. A first XI that isn't chop-and-change is vital in matches, never mind in a cup semi-final.
Kevin De Bruyne's injury: Cause for concern?
Kevin went off with apparent injury moments into the second half, although an eye test suggests that the injury isn't anything too serious. With the Belgian just gearing up for the latter stage of the season it will be a huge disappointment for the blues and Guardiola, but that's not to say we don't have options ahead of a defining Premier League month. Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan played together comfortably at crucial points during the winning run and I'm sure they'd fill in excellently again if called upon, whilst Pep also has the option of Phil Foden in midfield, an option he utilised in a 3-1 win at Goodison Park earlier this year. It'll be frustrating if De Bruyne's absence proves to be indefinite but City have options in that department.
And just like that, the quadruple bid comes to an end.
It was always bound to happen. Manchester City's incredible season was always bound to take a twist at some point and Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea proved to be a hurdle too high for City's quadruple horse as Pep's side stumbled for the second time in a week. With plenty of stars missing again today it was always going to be a difficult test but long-term, I'm not sure if this is something to really take a close look at. The 'strongest XI' will be good enough to close out the Premier League title whilst I'm also confident that the blues can win the Carabao Cup, provided there isn't more heavy rotation to come. With the Champions League a clear focus though, it could prove a temptation too tempting for Guardiola to rest his key men in the cup final to make sure business is attended to as critically as possible against Neymar and co.
Player Ratings: Steffen (4), Cancelo (5), Dias (4), Laporte (5), Mendy (3), Rodri (5), Fernandinho (5), De Bruyne (5), Torres (4), Jesus (4), Sterling (4).
Subs: Foden (5), Gundogan (5)