No one's crying for Chelsea and City, says Neil Humphreys
Chelsea, City gone from champs to chumps, but few care
CHELSEA v MAN CITY
(Tomorrow, 12.30am, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
There was a time when a game between Chelsea and Manchester City mattered.
Only it didn't. Not really.
Their respective title challenges were trumpeted out of necessity, rather than choice.
And therein lies the fundamental flaw that incoming managers Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola must address.
Despite billions in the bank and a few silver baubles in the trophy cabinet, Chelsea and City are still not Manchester United, or Liverpool, or Arsenal, or perhaps even Tottenham.
They're not even Leicester City.
There's no Cinderella story or deeply entrenched pedigree to sustain interest, or even Jose Mourinho to play pantomime villain and antagonise the public gallery.
The wealthy narrative of both clubs buys grudging respect, but not reverence. Respect may bring home the odd cup. Only reverence builds dynasties.
It remains the underlying failing at City and Chelsea.
Manuel Pellegrini and Mourinho managed to prop up the facade by each winning the title, but tonight's fixture highlights the perennial problem for their successors.
Not enough people care.
Beyond the partisan faithful, there's little interest in this contest and not only because it's between the 10th and fourth-placed sides.
Manchester United are equally hopeless, but Louis van Gaal remains a tabloid obsession for the masses. Arsene Wenger's annual "stay-or-go" debate never seems to get old and no one walks alone at Anfield.
The recent Europa League tie between Liverpool and Manchester United generated more interest than tonight's game at Stamford Bridge.
It certainly wasn't the second-tier prize on offer. It was Liverpool and Manchester United, just as it was Tottenham and Arsenal a few weeks ago. These are historical rivalries, traditional contests between established institutions.
All Chelsea and Man City really bring to the table is money which, for a decade or so, served both clubs well. But the dollars didn't translate into a dynasty and that's a serious concern.
Everyone's a lottery winner in the English Premier League now.
Next season, the bottom club will pocket £100 million ($193m) in TV revenues. They'll all be filthy rich.
What have City or Chelsea got beyond the wads of cash currently being waved by every club from Leicester to Watford?
City may call upon the magnetism of Guardiola, with the enigmatic coach pulling them towards the dressing room like a tractor beam dragging the world's best towards the Death Star.
To a lesser degree, Conte will hope to do the same. But neither manager really matches the charisma that oozes through every Portuguese pore of Mourinho and he couldn't attract the personnel required to stop Chelsea going from champs to chumps in less than three months.
Mourinho needed perhaps only two or three additions to solidify his title-winning squad.
But Conte must replace John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, at least one goalkeeper and quite possibly Oscar, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic.
Guardiola, on the other hand, has Joe Hart, Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero. Every other position is up for grabs, including those of David Silva and Vincent Kompany, whose lack of form and fitness, respectively, contributed as much to City's league struggles as their calamitous defending.
A simplistic analysis suggests tomorrow's match offers a shop window for restless stars eyeing an early exit and loyalists eager to please their future bosses.
But it's the clubs themselves who are in the spotlight, with the game's greatest assets looking for reasons beyond zeroes on a contract and the names on the manager's office door to consider joining.
Chelsea have no Champions League football to offer next season. City should be able to guarantee that bare minimum of requirements at least, but it's by no means certain.
The semi-final against Real Madrid rewards Pellegrini with a fitting swansong, but the road to European dignity is likely to end there and fourth place is not assured.
City's recent league form mirrors their back four; erratic and wildly inconsistent. Only United's dull plodding should allow their neighbours to hang on to fourth place, but it'll be by default rather than design.
Either way, neither City nor Chelsea look the most attractive suitors in a crowded marketplace filled with marquee names and blank cheques.
Asking a rising star, for example, to choose between either Conte's Chelsea and Juergen Klopp's Liverpool doesn't really seem like a tough choice at all.
Chelsea are a rich club still in search of a rich heritage. Liverpool are Liverpool.
The same goes for City and United.
Tomorrow's contest gives two clubs a final chance to show that, if nothing else, they are viable options for future transfer targets.
But the fixture doesn't represent the poignant end of a historic era. There never really was an era for either Chelsea or Man City to begin with.
That has always been their problem.