Man City boss backs Balotelli to shine at Liverpool

Mario Balotelli looks set for Liverpool. Photo: PA

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes Mario Balotelli could be the "perfect" fit for Liverpool - but insists they will still miss Luis Suarez.

Liverpool are understood to be closing in on a £16million deal to bring controversial former City forward Balotelli to Anfield as a replacement for departed talisman Luis Suarez.

Suarez scored 31 goals for the Merseysiders last season and has left big boots to fill.

Turning to Balotelli, who earned notoriety during his two and a half years at City for his erratic behaviour, appears a gamble by manager Brendan Rodgers.

But Rodgers seems to have recruited well in his other transfer activity this summer and Pellegrini thinks Balotelli could deliver.

Pellegrini, whose spell at the Etihad Stadium began after Balotelli's departure for AC Milan, said: "They will always miss Luis Suarez because he is a very important player but they have brought a lot of important new players and continue being a very strong squad also.

"I think Mario Balotelli is a very good player. He went here from Manchester City to Italy but I think he can play everywhere he wants.

"I know the character of Mario Balotelli - everyone that is involved in football knows about him.

"If Liverpool decide he is the player that is important for them, perfect for them and perfect for Mario."

Mario Balotelli
Balotelli was a divisive figure at City. Credit: PA

As Liverpool work on a deal with Balotelli, he cannot be registered in time to face his old club City on Monday.

The champions host the Reds at Eastlands in a meeting of last season's top two sides.

Liverpool won their most recent meeting, at Anfield in April, to claim the initiative in the title race.

They proved unable to hold onto that advantage as City won their final games to snatch the crown.

Pellegrini said: "We are just starting this season - last season for us is finished. We are not thinking any more about what happened last season.

"Different games, different moments. It is very important to start winning our points at home."

Pellegrini believes this season's meetings could be equally important and is wary that a number of his players are not yet fully fit.

He said: "I always say to the players that (these) games are games of six points - especially when you play at home with the most important squads of the Premier League such as Liverpool or Arsenal or Chelsea.

"It is important for us as we are just starting the season and maybe we don't have our whole squad in the best fitness moment, but I think this week we have worked very hard and very well, so I hope we can do a very good game and win the three points."

Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero is back in contention. Credit: PA

New £32million signing Eliaquim Mangala remains unlikely to feature as he builds up his match-fitness after only arriving last week.

Sergio Aguero, who made a goalscoring substitute appearance at Newcastle last week, may not be ready to start while other players involved in the World Cup are also not yet in peak condition.

Pellegrini said: "Pablo (Zabaleta) and Bacary Sagna - and (Vincent) Kompany, (Martin) Demichelis and Fernandinho, who already played - all of them will be not 100 per cent, but ready."

Pellegrini also admitted striker Alvaro Negredo, who is out with a broken metatarsal until October, may be left out of City's Champions League squad.

City are only allowed 16 foreign players in a reduced 21-man squad this season as punishment for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations.

Pellegrini said: "When we have to give the squad of the Champions League, we will decide which player we must leave off the list. We will see how his injury goes."