Roberto Mancini says Adam Johnson has the ability to leave Sunderland and join another "top team".
• Johnson looks forward to return
The England winger returns to Manchester City for the first time since his £10 million move on Saturday, and while Mancini reluctantly accepted that Johnson, whose opportunities at the Etihad Stadium were limited, had to leave, he believes the 25-year-old has the talent to take him back to another elite club.
"He will do well for Sunderland and go to another top team because he deserves this," Mancini said. "I think Adam played well here. The problem may be that he didn't play always. For young players like him it is important to play every game. He is a good guy and a good player."
Johnson only made ten Premier League starts for City last season and was used more as a replacement while David Silva and Samir Nasri became Mancini's first-choice players on the flanks. "I like Adam, but he wanted to play every game," the City manager added. "Here it was difficult."
Last season Sunderland were the only visiting team to leave the Etihad Stadium with a point following a 3-3 draw, and Mancini, whose side went on to win the league on goal difference, believes the late goals scored by Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov proved crucial.
He added: "Last year the point we did against Sunderland when we were 3-1 with five minutes to go was an important point in the league."
Neither Maicon nor Micah Richards is expected to be fit to face Martin O'Neill's team while Javi Garcia, who limped off in the Champions League draw with Borussia Dortmund, is a doubt.