English clubs in pole position

This, however, is a delusion. August 31's draw for the Champions League group phase would have commanded attention, but there has already been stress, misery and joy.

Malaga, for instance, claimed a place in the tournament proper for the first time after following a home win over Panathinaikos with a goalless draw in Athens. By and large, it is undeniable that the elite are in a privileged position. All four of the English clubs go straight to the group phase. Chelsea may have come sixth in the Premier League, but they are Champions League holders. In principle, it is impossible to improve on that, but Roberto Di Matteo seems set on making his side more expressive.

The leading English clubs usually have a store of knowledge they draw on to consistent effect. This is not to be taken for granted. Arsenal, for instance, made a great effort to recover from a 4-0 defeat to Milan and won 3-0 at home in last season's competition, but it was still galling for the club to take their leave.

Although alterations would have been necessary, it was no part of Arsene Wenger's scheme to sell Robin van Persie to Manchester United. That transfer, all the same, enhances Sir Alex Ferguson's team, offering the sort of depth that challenges players.

Elsewhere, there must be scrutiny of Manchester City. Roberto Mancini is no longer being accorded limitless means and the origins of this scepticism may lie in the European front. His side lacked the cosmopolitan expertise anticipated from the manager.

None of England's sides look all that formidable and although there will be plenty of expertise elsewhere, no one is unassailable. Barcelona's air of superiority disappeared when Chelsea had the effrontery last season to win the semifinal. With Pep Guardiola giving up the manager's post, there may be a small interruption in their affairs.

Economics usually tell and it is no coincidence that clubs from La Liga, the Premier League and the Bundesliga are expected to make an impact. The Spanish economy may be in feeble condition, but Jose Mourinho will not be reduced to cobbling together a line-up of Bosman recruits for Real Madrid. The manager is unaccustomed to disappointment and he will want to repeat the successes he relished with Porto and Internazionale. – © Guardian News & Media 2012

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


In East Africa, the locusts are coming back for more

In February the devastating locust swarms were the biggest seen in East Africa for 70 years. Now they’re even bigger

Western Cape Judge Mushtak Parker faces second misconduct complaint

The Cape Bar Council says his conduct is ‘unbecoming the holding of judicial office’

‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories