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Everything about the Rafael Benitez and Roberto Di Matteo saga is in the wrong order so expect the Israeli to be back at Stamford Bridge soon despite all contradictory insistence

By George Ankers

Chelsea's opposite ways are an Avram omen

An under-pressure manager is booed half-heartedly before winning an irrelevant game. He then loses a very relevant game against a poor team despite having led. The boos intensify to deafening levels before two more disappointing performances see him sacked.

A new manager takes over and, after some growing pains, gets his side playing some exciting football. Over the summer he shores up the defence and signs a talismanic striker who helps him to win the Champions League. The new manager then becomes a club legend.

That is how you would expect the story to go – but Chelsea, to be kinder than they perhaps deserve, are good at subverting expectations.

What Liverpool learned this week...
Brendan Rodgers is vindicated! Europa League trailblazers Liverpool are at the same level of continental competition as European champions Chelsea and have gone further than league title-holders Manchester City - they are right back among the English elite! No wonder young Brendan looks like an eight-year-old told that he can have some ice cream.
For the story of Rafael Benitez and Roberto Di Matteo has been told in reverse. It is Opposite Day at Stamford Bridge and has been every day for the past few months. A normal club do not boo their new manager before he has even seen his players kick-off. A normal club do not sack a popular local hero when times are tough; they hire one.

This is why, when both Chelsea and Avram Grant strenuously deny that he is set for a return, Blues fans should be worried. At a normal club, loud noises that a manager is not under threat of dismissal usually occur shortly before exactly that happens.

But Roman Abramovich, if he keeps up like this, is approaching Maurizio Zamparini levels of trigger-happiness. Even if the owner does not get him, Benitez is a lit torch and a pitchfork away from being hounded out of London by a bloodthirsty mob. CF aeslehC are not a normal club. Avram is coming.

Photo of the week


"Oh! They thought I'd let Shakhtar score? That's so cute..."

Platini makes it official: Uefa is a travelling circus act

Break out the silly shoes and spool out the trapeze; Uefa is bringing its circus act to a city near you. And another city near you. And a couple within not-unreasonable driving distance. Plus a bunch more a lot further away.

With Michel Platini as the hare-brained ringmaster, European football has been bouncing and cartwheeling with crazy ideas for ages but now the travelling circus metaphor is official. The party is coming to EVERYWHERE in 2020 thanks to the brilliant plan of making the tournament too large for any one nation to be able to afford to stage it.

Platini is not a unique administrator – he is not the first maniac to wear Uefa's extravagant top hat and he will not be the last – but his Summer Tour is a real crowd-displeaser.

The absence of a host nation will suck that tournament feel right away and the endless plane trips will stick a giant two fingers towards the environment but who cares? Think of how many sponsors and dignitaries you could fit in those gigantic stadiums!

Manchester City do not want to win the Champions League

What we will learn this weekend...
...the complexities of the Premier League's emergency loan system! A stubborn man, Sir Alex Ferguson is unlikely to let a little detail like having sold a player get in the way of team selection. His bureaucratic acrobatics to secure a last-minute return from QPR for Park Ji-Sung should be a sight to see. After all, he has to pointlessly start a past-it midfielder in a massive fixture - it is too old a habit to kick - and wheeling out Ryan Giggs is just starting to get cruel.
Throwing the GDP of a small nation on a football team carries with it the assumption that you wish to win things. Perhaps this is not always the case.

When Manchester City hired Roberto Mancini, they hired a man who had won Serie A repeatedly almost by default (and, occasionally, literally by default) but whose Champions League CV consisted of a child's doodle of a horse.

Thanks to said overwhelming financial force, City have consequently won the Premier League and are unbeaten in their quest to retain it. Everything is, seemingly, going to plan. Does it not then follow that the whole point of Mancini's tenure was to fail in Europe?

Sheikh Mansour bin Et Cetera is a disturbingly wealthy man who can have anything that he wants; that does not necessarily translate to wanting everything.

He already has two shiny trophies; both are domestic (thereby promoting local industry, so good for the club's PR). Maybe he thinks the Champions League pot is not as pretty or is scared of people with big ears. Perhaps he is a raging Europhobe and prefers his team to keep a body of water between them and the continent at all times.

When Mancini senses the possibility of a result and randomly reorganises his defence to compensate, perhaps it is under instruction. He is a model employee; City fans should be proud.

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