Roberto Mancini has remarkably claimed that Manchester City are "not ready" to win the Champions League.
The Italian was speaking after his team's 0-0 draw at West Ham United, which again illustrated some of the attacking problems that have left them with only one point in Europe ahead of tomorrow's home match against Ajax, and minimal prospects of getting through to the last 16.
While there remains the distinct possibility this is all another motivational tool, Mancini did speak at length about City's Champions League problems, comparing them to Chelsea over the last decade.
"I don't think we are ready to win a Champions League. If we said [we are], we are not honest," he said. "I think we are a good team. We are not ready like other teams. Chelsea for how many years tried to win the Champions League when they were probably the best team in Europe? And they won after 10 years, probably when they didn't deserve. We are not ready to play, to win a Champions League properly."
Whether the club's big-spending owners agree will be interesting, particularly after Mancini admitted a link to Monaco last week. Somewhat ironically, though, the Italian argued that, in Europe, his attackers must take chances when they have them.
"If we win the next three games, anything can happen," he said. "We played a very poor game against Borussia [Dortmund] and Ajax we played so-so. Also, [at Ajax] when we were 1-0 we missed two incredible chances to close the game. We need to improve, to play better, to score when we have a chance."
Mancini also criticised Mario Balotelli for missing opportunities against West Ham, if not quite for the striker's dissent on being substituted. "I think he should be disappointed for [missing chances], not because he leaves the pitch in the last 25 minutes. If you want to win a title again, we can't lose a point like today."
That was also down to the efforts of West Ham. Having admitted he will now never manage a club of City's stature, Sam Allardyce was asked whether he would enjoy the challenge of managing Balotelli.
"Well, I've managed Dioufy [El Hadji Diouf]!" Allardyce laughed. "It's all about personalities. If the talent far outweighs the difficulties, you'll manage them all day long."
On Saturday, there was great difficulty for the talent. On Tuesday, there will be even more.
champions league eye on the opposition
Ajax prepared for tomorrow's return trip to Manchester City with a surprise 2-0 home defeat by Vitesse Arnhem on Saturday. Ivorian forward Wilfried Bony scored twice inside eight minutes either side of the interval at the Amsterdam ArenA to inflict a first home loss in nine months on the defending champions.
Frank de Boer's side are now without a league win in four matches and trail new leaders PSV Eindhoven by nine points.
Substitutes: West Ham O'Neil (Diame, 71), Cole (Carroll, 77), Spence (Collins, 84). Man City Aguero 6 (Balotelli, 69), Garcia (Tevez, 84), Sinclair (Nasri, 90).
Booked: West Ham Collins, Benayoun, McCartney.
Man of the match Noble. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: West Ham 39% Man City 61%.
Attempts on target: West Ham 1 Man City 8. Referee H Webb (S Yorks). Attendance 35,005.
Champions League: Eye on the opposition
Ajax prepared for tomorrow’s return trip to Manchester City with a surprise 2-0 home defeat by Vitesse Arnhem on Saturday. Ivorian forward Wilfried Bony scored twice inside eight minutes either side of the interval at the Amsterdam Arena to inflict a first home loss in nine months on the defending champions.
Frank de Boer’s side are now without a league win in four matches and trail new leaders PSV Eindhoven by nine points.
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