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Friday, September 21, 2012
Mario Balotelli unhappy on bench

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Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini accepts it will be tough keeping Mario Balotelli happy if he continues to miss big matches.

Balotelli did not even make City's squad for the high-profile Champions League encounter with Real Madrid on Tuesday. Mancini rejected talk of a bust-up between the pair, insisting it had been a "tactical decision."

However, he accepts Balotelli would not have been impressed, even if he did hold out the olive branch of a potential place in his side to face Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

"It is difficult to keep Mario happy if he isn't first choice," said Mancini. "He was upset. This is normal. I don't think any player who doesn't play in the Bernabeu is happy about it. But we have four top players up front. Usually we play with two and the other two are on the bench.

"However, we have others who can play as second striker like Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri. Three strikers on the bench would be too much so it could be that sometimes a striker goes to the stand. But after Mario went in the stand in Madrid maybe he can play against Arsenal."

Balotelli has more chance of being involved on Sunday because Nasri almost certainly will not be.

The France star was forced out of the Madrid game with a hamstring injury which, while not serious, is yet to heal properly.

City's last encounter with Arsenal marked a particular low point for Balotelli, whose disgraceful tackle on Alex Song and subsequent red card in a 1-0 defeat left Mancini fearing a lengthy ban.

As it turned out, Balotelli escaped major sanction because the Football Association opted not to charge the forward over his woeful tackle on Song.

Asenal boss Arsene Wenger feels there is plenty more to come from the Gunners this season -- and he expects to see how their appetite corresponds to their ability Sunday.

The Gunners have responded well to the sale of captain Robin van Persie to Manchester United with an unbeaten start to the new campaign, which has included a battling Champions League victory in Montpellier earlier this week.

"I have no doubt about the desire and hunger of my squad. Tomorrow will just tell you how strong we are at the moment," said Wenger. "I believe we are quite strong, but we have some room for improvement. All is not perfect, but the signs we are giving are very good and very strong. The hunger is massive in this squad. They want to do well, they are focused and they want to win. We want to continue to improve."

Wenger accepts that while the title may not be on the line this weekend, the chance to strike a mental blow to City's aspirations of a successful defense of its crown is.

"It is the beginning of the championship and you know that this game can have a big influence on the belief of both teams, so who will have the upper hand has a psychological advantage," Wenger said.

"On that front it's a very exciting game and while it is still very early in the season, already it is a very important game for me."

Midfielder Mikel Arteta can also see what an impact beating City could have on the rest of Arsenal's campaign.

"It is still too early, whatever happens on Sunday, but if you get points there, and you win then you make a bit of a statement," he told Arsenal Player. "It grows the confidence of the team and everyone around it who believes we are as good as anyone in this league. These are good places to show that."

Arsenal must do without goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny because of an ankle problem. Vito Mannone has proved an able deputy so far this season, keeping two clean sheets.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.




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