Roberto Mancini back on the defensive after Manchester City make leaky start

Italian blames late pre-season for Lescott exclusion as Balotelli's conduct raises concern

When Roy Hodgson wonders aloud about first-choice England internationals who have become second-choice footballers for their clubs, he may think of Joleon Lescott.

Here was a man who, Rio Ferdinand aside, is the Premier League's most expensive English defender and yet, when Manchester City entered the Bernabeu to face Real Madrid, Lescott was left on the bench, his place taken by the teenage Matija Nastasic.

Until or unless England face Brazil in the Maracana or Germany in Dortmund's Westfalenstadion, Lescott is unlikely to face a more searching examination of his technique and temperament at international level.

Yesterday, Roberto Mancini confessed he was dissatisfied with his back four as a whole, one that has conceded 11 goals in their opening six games. Arsenal, tomorrow's opponents, have conceded two in five.

The fact is that Kolo Touré is not the player he was under Arsène Wenger; Mancini appears to have doubts about Lescott's technique while the usually immaculate Vincent Kompany has hit a patch of relatively poor form.

"We have started so-so," said Mancini, who has experimented with a regular four at the back and a 3-5-2 formation this season.

"[Because of the European Championship] we did not have enough time with them in pre-season and because of the internationals we have not had enough time with them once the season started. Joleon, like a lot of players, started his pre-season very late.

"We have played six games and I wanted to ensure that each player played two or three matches."

As City attempted to recover from their 3-2 defeat in Spain and the exhausting emotions that come with having victory against Real Madrid snatched from them as the curtain fell, the spotlight was on another player who simply watched as Cristiano Ronaldo struck the winner.

Mancini denied absolutely that he had forced Mario Balotelli to sit in the stands because he had spent the Saturday night after the 1-1 draw at Stoke with the boxer Amir Khan in Manchester's Circle Club. The manager had wanted the squad to rest before travelling to Madrid on the Monday.

Though he smokes, Balotelli is teetotal and his manager claimed the decision was purely tactical. But Mancini was entitled to be asked why Sergio Aguero, who had not played for four weeks due to injury, was thought more worthy of a place on the bench than Balotelli, an outstanding success in Euro 2012.

"He was upset, that is normal," said Mancini. "But when you have five games in 20 days, you should pay attention to the consequences. If you want to go through in all competitions, it is important that you have players who understand this situation.

"I have to make the best decision for the team. Afterwards, you might see it as a mistake but, before, I thought it was a good decision."

Mancini showed himself relatively relaxed about Balotelli's relationship with cigarettes and said: "If he wants my opinion, it is better that he quits. But if he smokes 10 cigarettes a day and scores two goals every game, then that's better."

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution