Mancini tells Balotelli to cut down on bookings or bench awaits


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Roberto Mancini has warned Mario Balotelli that he may not use him for big games because of his poor disciplinary record.

The Manchester City manager yesterday blamed the young striker's sending-off for City's failure to beat Liverpool on Sunday. Within 18 minutes of coming on at Anfield, Balotelli was booked twice and dismissed. The game finished 1-1. Mancini said yesterday that if Balotelli had stayed on the pitch, City might have won their twelfth game of the season.

"He didn't deserve the second yellow card against Liverpool," Mancini said of Balotelli, "but I hope that he stops doing this because I'm sure that if Mario was on the pitch we would have won the game against Liverpool."

Mancini, whose side host Norwich City today, warned that he may decide against bringing his protégé on in big games, given his disciplinary record. In March, City were eliminated from the Europa League by Dynamo Kiev after Balotelli was sent off 35 minutes into the second leg.

"He did this against Dynamo Kiev last year," recalled Mancini, "and I should probably have paid attention to this situation in the game against Liverpool. If Mario is on the bench it's probably better that I put on another of our strikers."

Looking back on Sunday's draw, just the second league game this season City have failed to win, Mancini suggested he ought to have used Edin Dzeko instead. "Against Liverpool I had Edin and Mario on the bench," he said. "At the time I thought Mario was good because we wanted to win and only had one striker on the pitch. Maybe if I put Edin on we would have kept 11 players on the pitch, because this wouldn't have happened with Edin."

Balotelli has been in exceptional form recently, scoring nine goals in 10 games before the Liverpool match, but Mancini demanded more if he is to be relied upon. "He has improved a lot. He has played well and has been an important player for us. So I want him to continue to improve," he said. "I took one red card in 20 years, Mario has had three red cards in two weeks! For a striker it is impossible to take yellow card, yellow card, yellow card."

Mancini's warning carried extra weight given the importance of some of City's winter fixtures. The club face Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Arsenal in the next 15 days.