Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini did what he could yesterday to take some of the sting out of what is effectively a Champions League qualifier against Tottenham tonight.
“It's one football match, not war,” he said. Then in the next breath came another assessment which revealed the true meaning of a match on which all the aspirations of Abu Dhabi now depend. “It is a chance to make history,” Mancini added. “We want to change the history of the club.”
The pressure is arguably more Tottenham's than City's, given that this might be a one-off last chance to take a leap into the big league, taking the money that comes with it to build. City will reach the Champions League, whether next season or soon after, but of the two managers Mancini, rather than Harry Redknapp, is in the unenviable position.
The Italian made a throat slitting gesture yesterday when discussing the insecurities facing Serie A managers.
“In Italy, it's different because if you lose three or four games, you are finished. Sacked,” he said.
His own place will only look secure by 10pm tonight if City have emerged with the three points which may still leave them needing a win at Upton Park on Sunday to reach their goal.
Mancini is clearly not resting on his laurels where his future next season is concerned. He has still not settled his wife, Federica, and daughter Camilla in the UK.
“She can't move now because my daughter is at school; it is difficult,” he said.
Neither has he met the club's owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed an Nahyan, five months after taking over the reins from Mark Hughes, but his strategy ahead of tonight's encounter was to reduce the temperature, despite the burning morning sun.
“I don't think the players have pressure at this moment. I don't have pressure at this moment,” said Mancini, reflecting that he has experienced occasions as formidable as this previously — such as in his last game at Internazionale against Parma which took them to the Italian title.
Mancini (pictured) related the story of his success at Lazio, when he was pushing to secure a Champions League place, rather that the UEFA Cup, seven years ago.
“We had the same situation with Lazio,” he said. “They are not a big team, but got fourth position, even though we were competing with Inter, Juve, Milan, Roma and lots of other big teams. So we did a fantastic thing.”
Lazio did, indeed, beat Brescia, to secure the fourth Champions League place ahead of Parma seven years ago and then overcame Benfica 4-1 in a qualifier, only to finish last in Group G and miss out on a UEFA Cup spot after Christmas that year.
The big difference between then and now was that Mancini did not have such a lavishly assembled squad in Rome. Their Champions League qualification followed the departure of Hernan Crespo and Alessandro Nesta for a total of 66m euros during a summer in which Lazio spent £55m less than they earned.