Pressure is an over-used term in sport. It gets bandied around too often to describe situations that, in real life, are far from truly stressful. But if you want an instance of pressure's genuine presence in football, it is probably a phone-call from Massimo Moratti, the overlord of Internazionale, and a man under whom both Roy Hodgson and Roberto Mancini have worked.
Both men, who will meet at Eastlands this evening, flourished at San Siro and that Mancini brought his president the Scudetto is one reason Hodgson feels the stresses of running the wealthiest football club in the world will not inhibit the manager of Manchester City.
"Mancini has worked at Inter and I don't think any English coach works under the pressure you get there," said Hodgson, who managed at San Siro when Milan were the dominant force in Italian football. "Inter is Inter. That's real pressure.
"They are an institution, even more than AC, and are a traditionally stronger club. They have been doing it since the 1960s, AC Milan have only been doing it since the 1990s. Mancini has been there and been a top-class player with Sampdoria and Lazio and won titles at both clubs. Pressure is not something that will bother him unduly."
Manchester City against Liverpool is an encounter between lottery winners and an old, impoverished aristocracy but Hodgson seems not to have the same instinctive, ingrained dislike of the arrivistes as, say, Sir Alex Ferguson.
"I see no reason why they should not win the league," he said. "Chelsea did it and they were nothing like title contenders when Roman Abramovich took over the club. Blackburn, too, did it with Jack Walker, who came to a club who were never winning anything. They bought Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton, Tim Sherwood and ... suddenly they were champions.
"I am sure Manchester City will be devastated not to finish in the top three and qualify for the Champions League because so much money has been spent. The pressure for the manager is to make the players gel. That is always the same at a new club. We have the same situation at Liverpool, except we haven't much money."
When Hodgson left Internazionale, it was for Blackburn to take a job that had initially been offered to Sven Goran Eriksson. He began well enough but left with the club staggering towards relegation and his reputation, in England at least, did not fully recover until he returned to take charge of Fulham.
And, on one extraordinary afternoon at Eastlands in April 2008, the proverbial Messerschmitts were well and truly on his tail. Fulham came to Manchester City second-bottom of the Premier League with three matches to play. They had just lost to Liverpool at Craven Cottage and, by half-time, they were two goals down to Eriksson's City. They won 3-2, overcame Birmingham and then went to Fratton Park on the final day of the season and won. Eriksson was fired and Fulham survived on goal difference. "That," said Hodgson with a smile, "was real pressure."
The kind of financial muscle available to Mancini is as far away from Liverpool as ever – especially following the collapse of the Kenny Huang-led bid – although Hodgson feels this would not be the right time for a sudden influx of cash at Anfield.
"I'd like some money to spend if I could research where that money could be spent wisely," he said. "Giving me a lot now and telling me to go out and buy some players with one week of the transfer window left would not be particularly advantageous.
"I've only been here for five weeks or so and I'd want to make sure I had assessed absolutely everyone, including those at the academy, just in case we have an outstanding 17-year-old. We might have a Javier Hernandez there so I don't want to go out and spend £50m on buying another one."
If Hodgson's debut at Liverpool's helm produced an encouraging 1-1 draw with Arsenal, tonight will be in another order of difficulty. What characterised the unravelling of Rafael Benitez's Liverpool was their away form. They lost at Sunderland, at Portsmouth, at Wigan and to Hodgson at Fulham.
"When I went to Fulham in the January of 2008 we had won one away game in about 38; I then proceeded to lose the next eight or nine. Give us coaches a magic wand. You can't say four or five sentences to your players and say: 'You'll never lose again'. You have to play well, be stronger defensively and score goals. I'm the ultimate anti-magic wand man."Reuse content