LONDON These are salutary times for the English. Their clubs have wealthy foreign backers, and their Premier League has just netted the biggest overseas television contract ever written, yet when Chelsea plays Manchester City in London on Sunday, they do so as European failures.
Chelsea’s Russian owner has responded by firing the coach yet again. City’s Abu Dhabi benefactors have made no public announcement after that team — the English champion — went out in the first round of the Champions League for the second year in a row.
Let’s try an experiment and for once not mention the extreme costs involved here. Let’s acknowledge that the Spanish and the Germans, with all seven of their teams headed to the last 16, appear to have a better understanding of what it takes to win Europe’s big league than the British do at the moment.
To be fair, Chelsea could, still, squeak through if the results of the final group games go its way Dec. 5. That will be no succor to Roberto Di Matteo, who was fired Wednesday to allow Rafael BenC-tez to be Chelsea’s ninth new coach since 2004.
To be fair to Manchester City, its group was by far the toughest anyone could draw in the first round. Even so, with five games gone and not a single victory, City’s coach was asked the inevitable question following a 1-1 home tie Wednesday against Real Madrid.
Given what happened at Chelsea, does Mancini fear losing his job?
“No,” was the Italian’s reply. “Why? I don’t fear this. If we think we can win a Champions League after two years, I think we are crazy.
“The Champions League is strange, is difficult. Probably we need to improve our team. There are a lot of teams better than us in the Champions League.”
His side, he pointed out, goes into its game Sunday as leader of the Premier League. But as he tries to rationalize the inexperience of his club in Europe, others point out that City has amassed a core of world-renowned figures.
In the words of Joe Hart, City’s goalie: “This has been a bad campaign for us. We have surprised ourselves in a very, very bad way.”
The goalkeeper made no excuses, and the opposing coach on Wednesday, Jose Mourinho, offered no sympathy. “We knew before the start that in this group, a big team would go out,” he said.
“And it’s good that it is City, because Roberto can work on without any problem,” Mourinho said, referring to Mancini. “If it was me, the press wouldn’t let me back in Madrid.”