Mancini backs Balotelli

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The Independent Football

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has defended Mario Balotelli, who will sit out the derby clash with Manchester United tomorrow.

The £24 million striker, who arrived from Inter Milan in the summer, was sent off in the victory over West Brom on Sunday after scoring a brace.

City are awaiting the outcome of a Football Association appeal hearing today against an automatic three-match ban for Balotelli's dismissal against the Baggies.

The 20-year-old Italian has endured a mixed start to his Eastlands career, suffering a knee injury and being booked twice before the Albion game.

Asked if he was concerned about Balotelli's attitude, Mancini said today: "Mario is a young guy, a top player, sometimes he can make a mistake. That is normal.

"In the last game the punishment was too severe.

"I hope he can improve in all ways. When you are a young guy you must improve day by day. That is important."

Midfielder Nigel de Jong has revealed some of City's senior players have spoken to Balotelli and told him to keep his temper under control.

Balotelli was dismissed for an apparent stamp on Albion's Youssuf Mulumbu and struggled to keep his emotions in check during the match.

De Jong told the Manchester Evening News: "When you are on a yellow card you have to watch yourself especially in an away game.

"He needs to learn from it and stay focused on his football and not talk to much.

"If it is me, Carlos (Tevez) or Vinny (Vincent Kompany) we always try to tell him he has to stop talking and concentrate on his game.

"But it is not easy for him. He is 20 and has come into the Premier League from Italy, which is a different game for him.

"He knows now what happens - and that you can leave your team-mates at a disadvantage because you end up playing with 10 men."