Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Can Balotelli force himself back in at Man City?

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Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has found opportunities limited this season, despite a stunning Euro 2012, leaving question marks whether he will force his way back regularly into the starting XI at the Etihad Stadium?

I think it is a matter of when, not if, for the Italian. He may be seen as enigmatic, but his capability to change games could be crucial if Man City are to secure back to back Premier League titles. His manager Roberto Mancini has mentioned that it is now time for the 22-year-old to prove that he is amongst the world’s best, and to show his true capabilities. It is time the striker earned his tag of ‘Super Mario’ but despite a somewhat lukewarm start to the season, his goal scoring record for City, last season, with a haul of 17 goals, including two against Man Utd at Old Trafford, shows that he certaintly has the potential to deliver the goods yet again.

Whilst fans were quick to laud Zlatan Ibrahimovic, for his four-goal master class against England, Manchester City have their very own cult hero who would relish his chance to shine yet again. It appears that Mancini is using his brinkmanship skills to ensure that his striker works harder to earn his place in the team. Despite Edin Dzeko proving himself more than apt off the substitute bench, he has failed to grasp his opportunity when given a chance from the first whistle. It is clear that Man City will need someone who can take pressure moments within their stride and last season Balotelli displayed this quality. He may have frustrated his boss on occasions with his sending off at the Emirates. However, he then always displayed an arrogance and nonchalance that is such a rare commodity when he dispatched his last gasp penalty against Tottenham, at the Etihad, with the game firmly poised at 2-2.

In the same way that City needed to re-call Tevez last season to rejuvenate their title campaign, this time round it should be Mario Balotelli’s turn to step forward and show why Roberto Mancini asked his Sheikh Mansour for Manchester City to part with £24 million for the player’s services. There have been more than whispers that his time at the Etihad may be up with Paris Saint Germain set to swoop for the Italian. After quickly denying rumours that City are due to make and audacious £40 million bid for Luis Suarez, I believe Mancini is waiting to unleash Balotelli, to provide those flashes of brilliance which could prove so crucial come May.

In order to succeed, the 47-year-old is aware that he will need his fellow compatriot as so many successful sides in the past have been built around having a front four that can be rotated to bring the most out of each individual striker, as on display at Man Utd. It may seem more logical to stick with Aguero and Tevez for now, who proved themselves on the weekend, that they can also re-deliver their stunning form at the back end of the last campaign; but there will be a point where Manchester City will need to start Mario Balotelli, sooner rather than later.

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