Balotelli takes centre stage
| Submit Comments| Comments (55)| Printable Version1/1Play SlideshowClose MapMario Balotelli and his City team-mates have been challenged to prove that there is life without Carlos Tevez. The Blues take on bottom side West Ham tomorrow without their suspended skipper and top goalscorer, with a chance of going joint top if they win. But Tevez?s one-match ban for totting up five yellow cards thrusts the spotlight firmly on the Italian, who is set to lead the line. And manager Roberto Mancini has thrown down the gauntlet to his 20-year-old and his supporting cast to paper over the loss of 10-goal Tevez. The Argentinian hit man has been a dominant figure for City since his move from United last year, netting 39 goals in 58 games. The Blues have also won the last 14 games in which Tevez has scored, but now Mancini says it is time for his teammates to step up to the plate. ?We must improve and try to score through other players ? Mario, Yaya Toure, Jo, Adam Johnson,? said Mancini, aiming to extend his side?s unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions. ?We can do this. Carlos is an important player and very dangerous in the box for our opponents, but if we continue to improve and play football like we did against Bolton I think we can win. It is not a psychological thing. ?It?s time we tried to win without Carlos. We are missing him and Aleks Kolarov, two important players, but the players who come in for them could also have good games. Carlos is important for us but if we can continue to play as we did against Bolton and against Stoke in the second half, we can win without him.? Balotelli has already shown plenty of promise, and has already chalked up five goals in seven appearances. He has usually been asked to shore up the left side of the City attack, with Tevez as the main man, but he scored twice against Salzburg last week when leading the line. First-team coach David Platt describes the Italian as the best natural finisher at the club, and Mancini agrees. ?If Mario plays near the goal he can score a lot of goals, like last Wednesday against Salzburg. He is young and must improve in every situation,? he said. There have also been signs that Balotelli is adjusting to the more physical nature of the Premier League without reacting. He refused to get involved with Zat Knight?s attempts at provocation during last week?s win over Bolton, much to Mancini?s pleasure. ?This year is important for him,? said the manager. ?In the Premier League you can take a lot of kicks in every game, every tackle is difficult. ?It?s very different to the football in Italy. If he can improve in these situations he can become a strong player. ?Would he have reacted to Zat Knight?s goading a few games ago? Probably. But I think every player who comes from another country has to learn about the Premier League because it?s a different competition to other countries.? The only time City have won this season when Tevez has failed to score was when Balotelli grabbed a double to sink West Brom at the Hawthorns. And despite his absence this week, Mancini has been delighted with Tevez?s declarations that he is ready for a long stay at City. ?Carlos is a fantastic player, one of the most important in Europe, or the world, maybe, and for us he is very, very important,? he said. ?I think he will stay here for a long time, because he has never told me anything different.? He also agreed with his skipper?s assessment that City need to concentrate on their own development rather than be pre-occupied with United. ?We have a problem every day as we must look at our own house, not at their house or any other house,? he said. ?We must think always of ourselves, try to play football and try to improve every day. This must be our target.? Mancini has also told his team that they cannot afford a repeat of last week?s wasteful performance against Bolton, when the Blues created a host of chances but still held up hanging on for the win after Kolarov?s red card. ?We have played well, but we must forget all that ? we must forget the Bolton game when we played well but only scored one goal. To beat West Ham we must score more than once,? he said.
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