It was George Costanza, the hilariously neurotic character in the brilliant American sitcom Seinfeld, who once said that if you tell somebody an untruth, you might not always do so knowingly: ‘it is not a lie if you believe it is true’.
I was reminded of this watching Rafael Benitez’s press conference ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup fifth-round tie with Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
I was reminded because I couldn’t quite work out if Rafa actually believed what he was saying when he told the press that his players are 100% behind him, or if he was deliberately spinning everybody an unlikely yarn.
Because either way, he is 100% wrong: the Chelsea players are not behind him, apart from the ones that are stabbing him in the back.
This isn’t going to be a defence of the Benitez reign at Stamford Bridge – he is obviously the wrong man at the wrong time and he has undoubtedly played a bad hand quite poorly – but we have been here before with the Chelsea squad and Rafa is the latest in a long line of managers that has been unable to win over the strong characters in the Blues’ dressing room.
Tormentor-in-chief John Terry, unhappy at being left out of the team, has already turned on the manager and as Avram Grant, Phil Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas can testify, once that happens there is only one winner.
Chelsea’s performance in the 2-0 defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday was that of a team that have given up on their manager.
Devoid of anything that a successful team needs, it was embarrassing for all involved and you can understand why, if the reports are true, Benitez took the squad to task in a meeting on Monday.
But he does that at his peril, and I would be surprised if Rafa saw the season out: now just two points above fifth-placed Arsenal, a couple more bad results could seal his fate.
The former Liverpool boss cannot afford to lose to Middlesbrough on Teesside this evening, and luckily for him I don’t think he will. Having said that, I won’t be backing Chelsea at 2/5, and the 6/1 on Boro or the 15/4 on the draw don’t appeal either.
Middlesbrough, for their part, are in the middle of a horrible run. Tony Mowbray’s side have won just three of their last 11 matches, but two of those were home games against non-league Hastings Town and League Two Aldershot Town in the FA Cup.
Since the turn of the year, Boro have been in freefall in the Championship. In 2013, the Teessiders have lost seven of their nine league fixtures, winning just one, and they have fallen out of the play-off places as a result.
They have conceded 18 goals in that run and they will not be able to keep Chelsea out, which is why I am going to have a go on the 2/1 that the Blues win a match that sees over 3.5 goals.
Eight of Chelsea’s last 14 matches have produced four goals (often at both ends of the pitch) but it has often been all or nothing with Benitez in charge.
On seven occasions under the Spaniard, Chelsea have hit four or more goals and they are capable of going for the throat against Boro, who have conceded four or more goals eight times this year – only Huddersfield Town have done that more in the Championship.
So the play is surely Chelsea to bully an out-of-sorts Boro in a high-scoring clash, and I’ll be on the 2/1 that they give Rafa a bit of respite, for now at least.