Manchester City assistant manager Brian Kidd has described reports that Mario Balotelli is set to be out of action until the end of November as nonsense. After arriving at Eastlands from Internazionale amid a huge fanfare, Balotelli's £24m move to the Premier League has so far fallen flat. Injured on a goalscoring debut against Timisoara last month, Balotelli was sent back to Italy to begin rehabilitation after a knee operation that City hoped he would be back from within a couple of months.
Yet sources in Italy earlier this week claimed the damage was more extensive than City initially thought and that Balotelli would not be ready to play for another 10 weeks at best.
However, now back in Manchester, Balotelli is apparently on course to return exactly as scheduled, with Kidd completely bemused about where the revised comeback date had emerged from. "There is nothing sinister in this," countered Kidd. "Mario has had the operation, he has come back and is now on with his rehabilitation. Wherever these other rumours are coming from, they are nonsense."
Balotelli was also up for discussion by manager Roberto Mancini who dismissed as "a joke" claims the controversial youngster, who has attracted more than his fair share of negative headlines in the past, was waving a Milan shirt from his hospital bed following the knee operation.
It seems bizarre that someone who has played such a minimal part in City's season should be of such interest, although it emphasises just what a news story the big-spending Eastlands outfit have become. With Emmanuel Adebayor not risked for the Europa League opener with Salzburg in Austria tomorrow evening, Mancini has just two fit forwards in skipper Carlos Tevez and Brazilian Jo. "Jo is a good player," stressed Mancini. "He is important to us."
Less surprisingly, Mancini is expressing similar sentiments about David Silva, whose move from Valencia was announced early in the summer but actually came to City very late following Spain's World Cup triumph. Silva has looked a dejected figure on the bench at times this season.
However, as City continue a run of seven games in three weeks, Mancini feels the former Valencia man can now start to make an impression. "Every player who comes to the Premier League has problems for a couple of months," said Mancini. "When he plays another few games everything will be normal."
Wayne Bridge is set to make his first appearance of the season after recovering from the ankle injury he picked up in pre-season. His presence is especially welcome as Joleon Lescott has felt a tightness in his groin that could rule him out for a couple of weeks.
Manchester City (probable, 4-3-2-1): Hart; Zabaleta, K Touré, Boyata, Bridge; Wright-Phillips, Barry, De Jong; Johnson, Silva; Tevez.