Houllier defends team selection

Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier has defended making eight changes to his side before Wednesday’s 3-0 loss at Manchester City in the FA Cup.

The French manager opted to leave the likes of Marc Albrighton, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Nigel Reo-Coker and Robert Pires warming the bench at City of Manchester Stadium, effectively conceding the fifth-round tie to a near-full strength City.

Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and David Villa all found the net for the hosts, who advance to face Reading in the quarter-finals.

Houllier, who came in for criticism for his team selection after the match, felt his top players would have made little difference against City.

“I knew that you would ask that,” Houllier said when quizzed on the thinking behind his eight changes.

“We started the team with Emile Heskey and Gaby Agbonlahor and Nathan Delfouneso, who is an Under-21 international, so that attack was practically three internationals.”

“We have quality and we use it. I don’t think Ashley Young or Stewart Downing would have avoided the first goal, which was very unfortunate.”

“After being down to 1-0 it was difficult. We have to acknowledge that we were beaten by a team that is better than ours at the moment.”

“I don’t think we had a bad game. I admit that we didn’t hurt them enough (but) the score is very flattering for them.”

City boss Roberto Mancini defended Houllier against criticism, saying he would have done the same if it were not for injuries.

“Gerard has experience. He knows it is impossible to play with the same players every three days,” Mancini said.

“I don’t have seven or eight players to bring in. If I did, I would do the same.”

Mancini was particularly pleased with the efforts of Italian striker Mario Balotelli, who played up front on his own and netted City’s second goal on 25 minutes.

“I took a risk to play only Mario up front, but Mario played well and scored a fantastic goal,” Mancini said.

“I was very pleased with the overall performance. This game was very important for us.”

Article title: Houllier defends team selection

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