Mancini admits City not ready to contend for Europe's elite trophy
West Ham 0 Manchester City 0:Roberto Mancini goes into Manchester City’s must-win Champions League tie at home to Ajax tomorrow night admitting his team are not yet ready to be credible contenders for Europe’s elite trophy. The manager, who saw City held to a frustrating 0-0 Premier League draw at West Ham United on Saturday, fears that City lack the knowledge and maturity at Champions League level.
City fell short at the group stage last season, on their Champions League debut, and in all likelihood they will go the same way this time unless they can win each of their remaining Group D fixtures. After Ajax they face Real Madrid at home and Borussia Dortmund away.
“I don’t think we’re ready to win the Champions League,” Mancini said. “If we say we’re ready to win it, we’re not honest. In the Champions League it’s clear that incredible situations can happen in February and March but we’ve been drawn in a tough group this year, like last year.
“We’re a good team but we’re not ready in the Champions League, like the other teams. Chelsea tried for 10 years to win the Champions League. They were probably the best team in Europe for 10 years and they won it after 10 years, probably when they didn’t deserve to. They deserved to win it three or four years before. The Champions League is like this. If we win our next three games, then fantastic . . . anything can happen. But the road is very long.”
Mario Balotelli means fireworks, especially at this time of year, as his neighbours in Cheshire would attest. Even when the Manchester City striker fails to spark, as was the case during an absorbing stalemate at Upton Park on Saturday, the explosions can still follow him.
It was an old favourite here: a clash with the manager, Mancini, after his 69th-minute substitution, that illustrated once again their exasperated father-rebellious-son relationship.
Balotelli, who missed a glorious chance on 33 minutes, walked off with his features set in stone. Neither man acknowledged the other and when the Italian striker took his seat on the bench, behind Mancini, he began to mutter furiously. What made and tends to make the situation pure box office are Mancini’s responses. There are no kid gloves, simply home truths. He meets fire with fire.
“Mario should be disappointed with the chance he missed, not leaving the pitch in the last 25 minutes,” Mancini said. “It was a bad chance he missed. A player is never happy to leave the pitch but if Mario had scored, he’d have stayed on the pitch. I’m the manager. I decide.”
It could have been even worse for the visitors had Kevin Nolan not seen a well-taken early goal controversially ruled out for offside. “Just a great shame that that technique has got ruled out by an offside that really wasn’t an offside,” said West Ham boss Sam Allardyce.
Andy Carroll went close on three occasions, most spectacularly with an overhead kick that was deflected wide, and Yossi Benayoun hit the City crossbar.