Mancini backs Balotelli, rejects Suarez reports

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MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) – Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini on Friday distanced himself from a move for Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and said Mario Balotelli remains an “important” player for the club.

Balotelli was forced to watch last Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League win over Tottenham Hotspur from the stands after being dropped by Mancini.

That prompted questions about the Italian striker’s future at City and was followed by speculation that the champions could make a move for Uruguay forward Suarez, who has been in fine form for Liverpool, in the January transfer window.

“It is not true,” replied Mancini when asked about Suarez at a news conference in Manchester ahead of Saturday’s home match with Aston Villa.

Referring to recent speculation about his own future, and reports that former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola could be heading for City, Mancini added: “I don’t know where these stories came from.

“For two weeks we talk about Monaco, Guardiola, now Suarez. We have a good team and we don’t need to buy another player in January. We can’t buy Suarez or another player because we have four strikers and Suarez plays for Liverpool.”

Mancini refused to say whether Balotelli, who has yet to score a Premier League goal this season, will return to the side against Villa.

“Mario didn’t play last week because it was my choice,” he added. “I have 20 players and if there are some players who don’t work well, they don’t deserve to play.

“There were other players that worked better than Mario and they deserved to go on the bench.

“I know Mario… but I am a manager, he is a player. If he doesn’t work well, he doesn’t play. Sometimes he plays well, sometimes not so well. But he is an important player for us.”

City, unbeaten in the Premier League, face a huge Champions League game against Real Madrid after the weekend.

They must beat the Spanish giants in Manchester next Wednesday to stand any chance of progressing to the knockout stage.

But Mancini said his focus was on securing three domestic points to keep the pressure on leaders Manchester United.

“What is important is tomorrow’s game against Aston Villa,” he said. “After tomorrow we think about Real Madrid.”

Striker Edin Dzeko could start after coming off the bench to score the winner against Tottenham, while left-back Gael Clichy, who has been receving treatment for a back injury, is also expected to feature.

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