Mancini counting on bad-boy Balotelli

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists that Mario Balotelli has a big future at Eastlands despite his recent poor behaviour.

Updated: April 02, 2011 10:10 IST
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Manchester: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists that Mario Balotelli has a big future at Eastlands despite his recent poor behaviour.

Since joining City from Inter Milan last year, Balotelli has been the subject of several unsavoury headlines relating to his personal life and his conduct both on and off the pitch at City.

His latest misdemeanour involved him being caught throwing darts at members of City's junior sides at the club's Carrington training base.

But ahead of Sunday's encounter with Sunderland at Eastlands, Mancini is confident that the striker - who is undoubtedly a huge talent when he applies himself - can become a City favourite but acknowledged that the 20-year-old is struggling to adapt with being the centre of attention.

"I do not regret signing him," Mancini said. "Mario is a fantastic player. He is a 20-year-old, so it is usual his behaviour is not good enough.

"I understand this situation very well. Playing here could be a fantastic experience for him.

"He has started 15 games and scored 10 goals. But he has to improve his behaviour.

"Now, everything Mario does is big news. If he goes into a restaurant and speaks to a woman, five will come forward and say they spoke to him.

"I have spoken to him. What I said will remain private but I hope he can change his behaviour."

Mancini will be hoping Balotelli can add to his goal tally against Sunderland; a club which has lost on six consecutive occasions at City since their victory at Maine Road in 1998, but manager Steve Bruce has been reassured that things will have to become a whole lot worse before he needs to start fearing for his future.

Currently in ninth, Sunderland are in danger of being dragged into the scrap for survival after losing five of their last six games to leave them half a dozen points above the relegation zone.

Yet having emerged from a three month 14-game winless run which wrote off last season, a six-match sticky patch is nothing too much to worry about, according to Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn

"Steve understands that because I'm a football person, there's no knee-jerk reaction whatever happens here," Quinn said.

"It would have to be a really long sustained period when the dogs in the street would know that he wasn't the right man. He'll be here for the longer term.

"We hope the club can fulfill Steve's ambitions. He wants to play in European (football) and he wants to get to a cup final. He wants to know this club is going to be knocking on the door for Europe every year and that we can take on the big boys. He's got our full support.

"Progress is a slow grind but we're playing with the big boys and we're making a good impression. People see us as a decent club, we're starting to earn respect."

For City, Carlos Tevez is expected to be fit for this contest but Mancini has various other injury problems after Micah Richards pulled a hamstring playing for the England Under-21s last week and Jerome Boateng (knee) has cartliage trouble and could require surgery.

Meanwhile, for the visitors, Fraizer Campbell hopes for his first involvement in more than seven months following knee surgery. Phil Bardsley and Sulley Muntari face fitness tests after picking up knocks in the 2-0 defeat by Liverpool

John Mensah is available after having his red card in that game rescinded but former England midfielder Kieran Richardson is out with hamstring trouble.

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