Balotelli to return in cup clash

Balotelli has not featured since scoring a hat-trick against Aston

Villa on December 28. Since then, the controversial Italian striker

has been to America for treatment on a knee injury that initially

flared up in August. It was hoped the 20-year-old would be fit

enough to face Manchester United on Saturday, but it now seems Paul

Ince’s League One outfit are more likely first opponents. “Mario

Balotelli can go on the bench for the next home game against Notts

County,” said Mancini. Before that, City face a lengthy trip to

Greece for Tuesday’s Europa League last-32 encounter with Aris,

when Nigel de Jong is again set to miss out. The Holland

international is troubled by an ankle problem and Mancini has no

idea when De Jong will be ready to return. “I need to speak with

the physio,” said Mancini. Meanwhile, defender Vincent Kompany is

urging the Blues to look on the bright side after the derby defeat

to Manchester United. A top-four spot was always the target, and

even if Tottenham and Chelsea could knock them out of it if they

won their matches in hand, City still appear well placed to claim a

coveted Champions League berth with an easier run-in. In addition,

in the Europa Cup and FA Cup, City still have two chances to end

their 35-year wait for a trophy. “This could still be a very good

season for Manchester City,” said Kompany. “There is too much to

look forward to for us to start thinking negatively now. “OK, we

have lost a game. It is three points. But it took something special

for Manchester United to win it.”