Busy fixture slate hampers English teams in Europe - Manuel Pellegrini

MANCHESTER -- Manuel Pellegrini believes English football's heavy winter workload helps account for the poor performance of Premier League teams in Europe.

The Chilean's Manchester City were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona on Tuesday and were one of four of England's top seven sides to suffer setbacks in continental competitions this week.

Arsenal lost 3-1 at home to Monaco before Tottenham went down 2-0 to Fiorentina and Liverpool were knocked out of the Europa League by Besiktas on penalties after being defeated 1-0 in the second leg in Istanbul.

And while most other leagues have a winter break, Pellegrini feels English sides are exhausted by the time European football resumes in February, particularly because every domestic game is so competitive.

He said in a news conference: "I think there are a lot of things that maybe are important reasons why the results have happened.

"The Premier League is very strong and every game you must play [for] 95 minutes at 100 percent intensity. Maybe in other leagues it is not so hard every game. In December and January, especially in December, you have to play nine games.

"Last year we played 18 games in two months. Maybe it is not the best way to prepare for the knockout stages in Europe. Also this week was not a good performance of the teams."

City's defeat to Barcelona would have been heavier but for an injury-time penalty save from Joe Hart to deny Lionel Messi.

And Pellegrini thinks it could be crucial, adding: "It is important because you just have one goal difference. The penalty was a very unnecessary penalty but we played with 10 players for the last 20 minutes and really Barcelona did not have many chances to score."

City face Liverpool on Sunday with Pellegrini debating whether to give a first start to his 25 million-pound January signing Wilfried Bony

The former Swansea striker has made two substitute appearances and Pellegrini said: "Bony is working with our team for just two weeks. We will see which is the best moment for him to start. It is important for him every time that he goes in to give to our team what we know he can do."