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By ESPN Staff

Balotelli nears return

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini expects Mario Balotelli to be fit enough to make the bench for the Blues' FA Cup fourth round replay against Notts County next Sunday.

• Blog: 2-1 results bad news for City

Balotelli has not featured since scoring a hat-trick against Aston Villa on December 28. Since then, he has been to America for treatment on a knee injury that initially flared up in August.

It was hoped the 20-year-old would be fit enough to face Manchester United on Saturday, but it now seems Paul Ince's League One outfit are more likely first opponents.

"Mario Balotelli can go on the bench for the next home game against Notts County," Mancini said.

Before that, City face a lengthy trip to Greece for Tuesday's Europa League last-32 encounter with Aris, when Nigel de Jong is again set to miss out. The Netherlands international is troubled by an ankle problem and Mancini has no idea when he will be ready to return.

"I need to speak with the physio," Mancini said.

Meanwhile, defender Vincent Kompany is urging the Blues to look on the bright side after the derby defeat to Manchester United.

A top-four spot was always the target, and even if Tottenham and Chelsea could knock them out of it if they won their matches in hand, City still appear well placed to claim a coveted Champions League berth with an easier run-in.

In addition, in the Europa Cup and FA Cup, City still have two chances to end their 35-year wait for a trophy.

"This could still be a very good season for Manchester City," Kompany said. "There is too much to look forward to for us to start thinking negatively now.

"Okay we have lost a game. It is three points, but it took something special for Manchester United to win it."

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