When two billionaires' sides come out to play

Tomorrow night's match, Manchester City versus Chelsea, should be about as big as it gets in English Premier League terms.

Think of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure contesting the middle ground against Frank Lampard and Ramires.

Of Eden Hazard and Oscar and Willian trying to outshine Jesus Navas and David Silva's creativity for City.

And, even in the absence of the again injured Sergio Aguero, see how Manchester's now leading force attacks John Terry and Co. with the perseverance of Edin Dzeko and the goal hungry Alvaro Negredo.

This match is, on paper, the feast of billionaire spending. And spending, incidentally, that is going to require plenty of "creative accountancy" to explain that a £50 million (S$105 million) loss posted by each club in the last financial year does not exceed the limit set at £37 million by Uefa.

The blues and the light blues will, of course, show they comply with "Financial Fair Play".

The media's friend, Jose Mourinho, has already sneered at "some others with a dodgy FFP". Meaning, though he thinks he is being smart not to say it, one of the two clubs that stand above his in the league, leaders Man City.

Face it. The Arabs bankrolling City and the oligarch paying the bills at Chelsea can tell us until they are blue in the face that they comply (and those other scoundrels elsewhere do not).

But we all know it is smoke and mirrors. These are the two most acquisitive clubs in England, buying what they want, when they want it, and drawing up the accountancy with, well, "dodgy" paperwork that writes off overspending as youth investment, facilities, or whatever.

Bottom line is that Abramovich had a seven-year start on Abu Dhabi City because he was at Chelsea for that much longer. City's benefactor, now buying it the Barcelona way, has been playing catch up which resulted in spending exceeding income of £197.5 million in 2011, £97.9 million in 2012, and "only" £51.6 million last year.

The owners have paid off the debt of £58 million and from here on can anticipate rising profits from the new global TV deal for the Premier League, from increased commercial deals, and even from trimming some of the surplus players who could make up a decent line up for more normal clubs lower down the league.

For Jose Mourinho to insinuate that he is labouring under the handicap of competing against "dodgy" Financial Fair Play practice is ridiculous.

But then the Portuguese doesn't care what we may think of him, just so long as his barbs hit the intended target, which is opponents he fears.

He is becoming a caricature of the mouthy media manipulator who gets his excuses in first.

Last Wednesday, his team, who have now sold off Juan Mata, huffed and puffed but couldn't break down West Ham's defensive wall at Stamford Bridge.

"This is football from the 19th century," Mourinho moaned. "Ten defenders in the box. Very basic. Its difficult to play a match where only one side wants to play. The only thing I could use was a Black and Decker to destroy their wall."

And we are supposed to suck up this Mourinho drivel?

Only a month ago, after Chelsea had locked up Arsenal in another zero-zero bore draw at the Emirates, the master of manipulation fed the press the line: "Boring is a team that plays at home and cannot score a goal. That's boring because you go to your stadium and you fill your stadium to see victories."

Similar pragmatism, similar woffle at Old Trafford last August when Chelsea shut up shop and triumphed in neither scoring nor conceding against Manchester United.

And very similar to the way Mourinho's Inter, Mourinho's Real Madrid, snuffed out the attacking beauty of Barcelona in recent seasons.

The English football writers just honoured Mr Mourinho at a gala dinner at London's Savoy Hotel.

Television sometimes gives the impression that it can barely wait for the final whistle of a match so that they can get Mou on air.

And even when he tells them Chelsea is in second place, but has no chance against City's spending, and City's longer term of team building, the gullible are supposed to lap that up.

The sad part of this media game is that it would be so much better with the sound turned off.

Watch Oscar curl a free kick. Watch Hazard slalom between defenders. See the lung bursting runs Ramires makes. Smile at the cheek with which Samuel Eto'o sneaks a goal. Admire, if that's your preference, the brutish solidity with which John Terry puts his body on the defensive line.

Those are just some of the elements, some of the riches, that Chelsea has in abundance. Riches paid for by Abramovich, and riches that Claudio Ranieri began to accumulate before the first Mourinho era.

Riches with which Roberto di Matteo managed to win the Champions League. And with which Rafa Benitez, despite the hostility he faced as Mourinho's nemesis, won the Europa Cup. Both were mere "interim" managers between the two eras of Mourinho at Chlesea.

We can avoid going down the road of Jose M's vituperative spats with Benitez.

It is harder to overlook the dismissive swat by which Mourinho waived away Manuel Pellegrini whom he replaced at Real Madrid in 2010.

"If Madrid fired me," told the media, "I wouldn't go to Malaga. I'd go to a top-level team in Italy or England."

Pellegrini's Real had finished second to Barca, but second was, said Mourinho, still a loser.

The Chilean is too streetwise to enter a words with the Special One. He said he has no quarrel with anyone - but Pellegrini still avoided shaking hands with Mourinho after City lost at Stamford Bridge in October.

Since that 2-1 defeat, City are unbeaten run in 20 games, winning 18 and hammering goals at a rate never previously seen in the EPL.

There remains vulnerability about City's defence, so you would think that a side with Chelsea's armoury would give it a go tomorrow. Why not? City might score another four or five, but Chelsea has spent millions on counter-attackers.

Pellegrini, incidentally, has always played risky football. You may not have heard him say so, because he is inclined to think it is a players' game.

In his own quiet words, Pellegrini has said that he and Mourinho "have a different way of thinking about life".

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