De Jong hails Mario improvement

Balotelli produced one of his best performances for City to inspire

them a comfortable 4-1 win over Aston Villa which took them top of

the Premier League. After a number of run-ins with Roberto Mancini,

it was a timely contribution from the 21-year-old ahead of the

resumption of City’s stuttering Champions League campaign in

midweek. City dominated headlines throughout the recent

international break as controversy surrounding Carlos Tevez

continued to unfold. Balotelli, whose opening goal against Villa

was his fourth in four games, took the heat out of that situation

with an-all action performance which included some confident

interaction with away fans at the Etihad Stadium. City can now look

forward to Tuesday’s crunch clash with Villarreal and the

eagerly-anticipated derby with Manchester United five days later

with renewed vigour. With Tevez now an apparent outcast as

disciplinary proceedings continue, midfielder De Jong believes

Balotelli is beginning to realise his responsibilities as a City

player. The Dutchman told City TV: “I think he is getting it now,

why we always try to teach him a lesson. He is getting it slowly

but surely. “You have to give him credit for the last couple of

weeks, not just on the pitch but in the training sessions. “He is

behaving quite normal for him. Everyone is happy to be with him.

“Nobody ever doubted his qualities but with great qualities you

need to have big responsibilities as well – not only on the pitch

but outside as well. “I think he showed that to the group and

Manchester City as well in the last couple of weeks.” Balotelli

took advantage of Mancini’s decision to leave Edin Dzeko, David

Silva and Samir Nasri on the bench and not to risk Sergio Aguero

after injury as he provided much of City’s attacking thrust. After

testing Shay Given, he gave City the lead with a sharp overhead

kick and continued to bother previously unbeaten Villa throughout,

bringing another fine save from the keeper in the second half. On

the downside there were occasional displays of frustration and an

apparent collision with Given, but the biggest disappointment for

City is that he is suspended for the Villarreal encounter. After

beginning their European programme with a draw against Napoli and

that infamous 2-0 loss at Bayern Munich in which Tevez allegedly

refused to play, City need to beat the Spaniards to kickstart their

campaign. De Jong added: “They are two massive games (this week).

The Champions League is the first one and it is obvious we have to

win that game to proceed to the next stage. “After that is the

United game, which will be a massive game, number one and number

two against each other. “We just have to prepare ourselves very

well and focus again now.” After leading just 1-0 at half-time,

City powered further ahead through Adam Johnson and Vincent

Kompany. Stephen Warnock pulled one back but former Villa

midfielder James Milner finished the visitors off with a sublime

fourth goal.