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Mancini looks to super Mario for Europe test
Mario Balotelli looks likely to play a pivotal role for Manchester City when they face a vital Champions League group game against Spanish side Villarreal on Wednesday.
The controversial Italian forward has enjoyed a high-profile week, fleeing his house after a firework mishap just 24 hours before he scored twice in City's magnificent 6-1 victory at Manchester United on Sunday.
He was rested on Saturday as City eventually recorded a comfortable 3-1 victory over Wolves that maintains their five-point lead at the summit of the Premier League.
And manager Roberto Mancini hinted that Balotelli will have a key role when City visit the Spanish side with their hopes of Champions League qualification hanging in the balance on Wednesday.
"I left Mario out because I can't play with three strikers," said Mancini. "Sergio Aguero needs to play after injury and Edin Dzeko played very well and scored on Wednesday. Sometimes it is important to rest and we play in a few days.
"The last 25 minutes we were playing with 10 men it was very hard for the players and now they have to recover very well."
Balotelli is clearly reveling in his new-found popularity among City fans and he was afforded a hero's welcome when he was brought on as a 70th-minute substitute for Samir Nasri.
The 21-year-old came close with one shot and laid on a third goal for Adam Johnson in the first minute of injury-time.
That completed a victory which had started with goals from Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov but which had hung in the balance after Vincent Kompany was sent off for a foul on Kevin Doyle after 73 minutes, Stephen Hunt scoring the resulting penalty and reducing arrears to 2-1.
Balotelli now has his eyes set on helping City dominate in Europe as they have, thus far this season, domestically. "We could be the best in Europe," Balotelli said. "We have a lot of good players.
"Barcelona have a lot of great strikers - Messi is at another level. We have many players who are at the same level, some are a little bit more or a little bit less. There are not many teams who are like this.
"It means whoever we play we will score and play well. It doesn't matter who plays, we can win. If rotation happens to me, it is normal. We are in a team where everyone can be changed."
Mancini, meanwhile, is more interested in dealing with the expectation which is growing by the game, especially in the wake of City's demolition of United a week ago.
"It is impossible to always score four or five goals every game," he said. "Like today, we had I don't know how many chances but their keeper saved everything. In football we need to be patient some time.
"The second half we played very well, the first half also, but sometimes it is difficult to score. But it was important to beat Wolves today.
"After Man United, I don't want everybody to think every game will be easy. Football is not like that. Every game we should play 100 per cent because if not, like today, any moment the game can change because after the sending off the game was very different."
Beaten manager Mick McCarthy refused to blame his goalkeeper for his role in the defeat and joined the growing chorus that believes City are current favourites for the title.
"Wayne was fabulous, he has been all season, brilliant," said McCarthy. "So there are no recriminations from me but it is another mistake that has let the opposition get the lead.
"I heard the crowd at half-time and there was a lot of anxiety and frustration which shows our performance was good. But City are the team to beat at the moment. They made that patently obvious last week when they beat United."
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