Manuel Pellegrini insisted he would gamble Manchester City's Premier League top-four finish all over again to prioritise the Champions League, even after a comprehensive 4-2 defeat at Southampton.
City were undone by Sadio Mane's hat-trick on the south coast in a line-up showing eight changes from Tuesday's goalless draw with Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
Pellegrini insisted he would do "exactly the same again" in terms of his vast rotation, despite accepting the defeat could impact Wednesday's return leg in Madrid - and dent City's chances of securing a top-four league finish.
City's hefty defeat leaves that fourth-place Premier League finish in the balance, with Arsenal and Swansea still to play.
"I would do exactly the same again because we have an important game on Wednesday to play for the Champions League final," said Pelllegrini.
"We continue in the Premier League in the next two games to be in the top four so that was a risk, but one we also had to take.
"I was very disappointed, especially in the defending. It was the same players who played other games.
"We knew before the game it was a risk but we have to take those risks because we have an important game on Wednesday.
"Maybe if we had played on Saturday we could have put more players in.
"I always say the best way to prepare for the next game is to win and that's why we did so well before Paris St Germain."
Pellegrini expects Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne all to be ready for the Madrid trip on Wednesday, with all three not involved at St Mary's.
Kelechi Iheanacho's brace could boost his chances of facing Real, but Raheem Sterling failed to further his own cause with an ineffective display.
Pellegrini admitted there were no positives in defeat, and refused to comment on Sterling's performance, insisting: "I don't analyse individual players."
Pellegrini had criticised Premier League bosses in advance of the Southampton trip, claiming the match should have been rearranged to hand his side more time to prepare to take on Real.
Ronald Koeman revealed Southampton had not been asked to reschedule the match, and admitted he would have been willing to help another English club flourish in Europe.
Mane's hat-trick and Shane Long's strike kept Saints' Europa League qualification bid alive, with Tottenham and Crystal Palace left to play in the Premier League.
Boss Koeman admitted he omitted Graziano Pelle after the Italy striker disappointed in training.
"I wasn't happy about the intensity of Graziano in the training sessions this week," said Koeman, issuing an outright challenge to the 30-year-old to sharpen up.
"I like to be straight with everybody: other players were more deserving of being part of the 18 today.
"He knows, and I will see what happens next week."
Koeman insisted Southampton in Sunday's mood could have produced the same result against City's strongest starting line-up.
"You can talk about the changes of Man City in the team, but that's not fair: give all the credit to Southampton because the performance today was fantastic," said Koeman.
"We're always confident to beat our opponents, maybe a little more when we're at home.
"It's difficult to deal with a Premier League game between two huge games against Real Madrid. They still need more points to finish fourth but that's not my responsibility.
"It's normal that maybe there's a little bit less focus. It's a human reaction of players in football, but that doesn't give enough credit to Southampton.
"Even if City had started with their best team we had possibilities to win, because we were at our best this afternoon."
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