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Midfield void haunts Everton


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Balotelli to return for United clash

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has said Mario Balotelli will be selected to take on Premier League title rivals Manchester United later this month, despite previously stating the controversial striker would not play again this season.

• Prem: City close on United
• Jolly: Blue Moon rising
• Balotelli escapes action over tackle
• Blackmore: Mario wouldn't last at Utd

Mancini said on Sunday that he was "finished" with Balotelli and that he would "probably" sell his compatriot in the coming summer. However, after the FA confirmed Balotelli would face no retrospective action for his tackle on Alex Song at Arsenal - an announcement that means he will be banned for three matches rather than nine - the striker will be available for what could prove to be the most important clash of the season.

"I thought Mario would be banned for six or seven games, that's why I said he wouldn't play again this season," Mancini said. "He only got three games so I'm pleased for this. He will be back for Manchester United [on April 30]. He will be ready."

City cut United's lead at the top of the Premier League table to five points on Wednesday evening as they cantered to a 4-0 win over West Brom, while United suffered a 1-0 defeat at Wigan.

After the game, Mancini suggested the title race was already over, but claims adding to City's 6-1 victory over United last November would be a matter of local pride rather than competition points.

"It's important for us to beat United here, to beat them two times in a season," he said. ''United are a fantastic team and I don't think they can lose five points. It is important that we finish this good season for us well. This is the best season since 1968 and this is important.

''I fight always, every day, and also my team but now I think it is too late. I think they have fantastic spirit, United. We don't have the same spirit and for this reason I think this is very difficult.''


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