Mancini: It's hard keeping Balotelli happy

Balotelli was handed a watching brief at the Bernabeu on Tuesday evening. Photo: PA

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini accepts it will be tough keeping Mario Balotelli happy if he continues to miss big matches.

Balotelli did not even make City's squad for the high-profile Champions League encounter with Real Madrid on Tuesday.

Mancini rejected talk of a bust-up between the pair, insisting it had been a "tactical decision".

However, he accepts Balotelli would not have been impressed, even if he did hold out the olive branch of a potential place in his side to face Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow.

"It is difficult to keep Mario happy if he isn't first choice," said Mancini.

"He was upset. This is normal. I don't think any player who doesn't play in the Bernabeu is happy about it.

"But we have four top players up front. Usually we play with two and the other two are on the bench.

"However, we have others who can play as second striker like Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri.

"Three strikers on the bench would be too much so it could be that sometimes a striker goes to the stand.

"But after Mario went in the stand in Madrid maybe he can play against Arsenal."

Balotelli has more chance of being involved on Sunday because Nasri almost certainly will not be.

The France star was forced out of the Madrid game with a hamstring injury which, while not serious, is yet to heal properly.

And Mancini has no doubts Balotelli could deliver against the Gunners.

"My patience for him is endless," he said, even when it came to further discussion of his striker's smoking habit.

"I haven't told him to stop," said Mancini. "I don't smoke. I don't like to smoke.

"If he wants to smoke that is his problem. It is his life.

"If he wants my opinion it is better that he finishes. But if he smokes 10 cigarettes a day and scores two goals in every game, it is better."

City's last encounter with Arsenal marked a particular low point for Balotelli, whose disgraceful tackle on Alex Song and subsequent red card in a 1-0 defeat left Mancini fearing a lengthy ban.

As it turned out, Balotelli escaped major sanction because the Football Association opted not to charge the forward over his woeful tackle on Song.

It turned out to be a crucial move as it meant Balotelli was free to set up Sergio Aguero's title-winning injury-time goal against QPR.