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Saturday, September 22, 2012
Frustrated Balotelli could face Gunners

Richard Jolly

Roberto Mancini has admitted that Mario Balotelli was upset at being omitted from the Manchester City squad against Real Madrid but has hinted the Italian may return against Arsenal.

Balotelli was not even on the bench for the 3-2 defeat in the Bernabeu Stadium in the Champions League and Mancini said he faces a struggle to keep his four main strikers happy.

"He was upset, that's normal," the City manager said. "I don't think there can be a player who doesn't play and is happy. When you have a full squad it is very difficult."

Mancini chose Carlos Tevez as the sole striker against the Spanish champions with Edin Dzeko, who came on to score, and Sergio Aguero, named as substitutes.

That meant Balotelli, who was Italy's first-choice forward when they reached the final of Euro 2012, was effectively the fourth forward.

"I have to take the best decision for the team," Mancini added. "Afterwards you might see it as a mistake but before I thought it was a good decision. It was a tactical decision because I had two strikers on the bench and two would have been too much.

"We have four top strikers and, usually, we play with two while two stay on the bench with me. Often we have someone who can play as a second striker like Samir [Nasri] or David [Silva] or Yaya [Toure] and sometimes you only need one striker."

But Mancini opened the way for Balotelli to return against Arsenal on Sunday, adding: "Whereas Mario went to the stands in Madrid, maybe he can play against Arsenal because in our squad it is important that we have people who can run, fight and score."

Balotelli was sent off against Arsenal last season in a defeat that, at the time, Mancini believed ended City's title chances as well as the striker's season.

In the event, he served a shorter suspension than the manager expected and returned to set up Sergio Aguero's title-deciding goal.

"I thought he would get a six-game ban; three for a red card and another for [stamping on Alex] Song," Mancini added.

Mancini has urged Balotelli to stop smoking but smiled: "If he wants to smoke it is his problem. If he wants my opinion, it is better that he quits. But if he smokes ten cigarettes a day and scores two goals every game, then that's better."

He also professed ignorance of Balotelli's nocturnal activities, saying: "I don't go out at night with Mario so I don't know what happened."

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