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Page last updated at 07:45 GMT, Monday, 23 August 2010 08:45 UK

Man City boss feels Balotelli can be better than Torres

MANCHESTER CITY v LIVERPOOL
Venue: City of Manchester Stadium Date: 23 August Start time: 2000 BST Coverage: Comprehensive build-up and full commentary on BBC Radio 5 live & live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles; live on Sky Sports 1

Mario Balotelli and Roberto Mancini
Mancini gave Balotelli his debut for Inter Milan when the striker was aged just 17

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini thinks new £24m signing Mario Balotelli has the potential to be a better player than Liverpool striker Fernando Torres.

Balotelli is set to make his Premier League debut against Liverpool after scoring in his first match for City on Thursday as a Europa League substitute.

"Balotelli could be as good as Torres and even better," declared Mancini.

"Torres can only play as a striker [but] Balotelli can play as striker and a winger. He has a different attitude."

Having moved to City from Inter Milan on a five-year deal, 20-year-old Balotelli made an immediate impact in less than 20 minutes on the pitch by scoring a late winner during the club's 1-0 Europa League play-off first leg win over Romanian side Timisoara.

Mancini gave fellow Italian Balotelli his Inter debut when he managed the San Siro club and moved for him after City's interest in bringing Spain international Torres to Manchester was rejected.

606: DEBATE
Havince

"What is sure is that we are talking about two fantastic players," added Mancini.

"The defenders do not know much about him [Balotelli], but they will see he can change everything about a game.

"I saw him four years ago when I was at Inter Milan. He was 16 or 17. It was the last five games of the Serie A championship. We had [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic injured and we played Mario inside and he played like someone who was 30 years old.

"That's because he has good technique, he has everything."

Torres, meanwhile, is getting back to full fitness after injuring his thigh in the World Cup final and could start against City after coming on as a substitute in the draw against Arsenal which began their Premier League campaign.

Considered one of the world's best strikers, Torres notched the winning goal for Spain when they beat Germany to win Euro 2008 and the former Atletico Madrid star has scored 23 goals in 72 games for his country and 72 in 102 appearances for Liverpool.

They take on City in a match that might be billed as one team who are on the up against one team who are on the way down.

But Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson insists his side can aspire to the same lofty ambitions as Mancini's free-spending City this season, despite the club failing to qualify for the much-coveted Champions League.

"We both have high ambitions," said the former Inter Milan and Fulham manager. "I'll be disappointed if we have a bad season, Mancini will be if they do too.

"Expectations are high whatever you do - if you spend no money there are high expectations, but when you spend a lot of money the expectations are a little bit greater.

"Mancini is used to that; like myself he has worked at Inter. When you work there you are used to high expectations."

Fernando Torres
World Cup-winner Torres is gradually working his way back to full fitness

Although uncertainty surrounds the Liverpool's future ownership, spirits on the field are high after an encouraging season-opening draw against Arsenal - and Hodgson believes it is as good a time as any to be playing City.

"If you look at their squad on paper and the quality of players they have bought, everybody sees them as being a strong squad," he said.

"They obviously have a very good chance this year of winning the Premier League.

"That is their goal and I am sure they would be devastated not to finish among the top three and play Champions League football.

"Whenever we were drawn to play Manchester City it was going to be a tough game. We are going to have to be at our best to get a result."

City drew the opening match of their Premier League season with a 0-0 draw at Tottenham, during which the club's host of new players players failed to gel properly.

Mancini, who himself said City have title ambitions this season, added: "Liverpool are a strong team. They did not sell any players from last season.

"We want to win but I have a lot of respect for them and a lot of respect for Roy Hodgson. It should be a good match."



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see also
Man City 3-0 Liverpool
23 Aug 10 |  Premier League
Mancini hails Balotelli's debut
19 Aug 10 |  Man City
Man City's juggling act
20 Aug 10 |  Man City
Will Balotelli gamble reap rewards?
13 Aug 10 |  Man City
Mancini defends Balotelli's reputation
17 Aug 10 |  Man City
Striker Torres committed to Reds
03 Aug 10 |  Liverpool
Manchester City 0-0 Liverpool
21 Feb 10 |  Premier League
Torres wins Euro 2008 for Spain
29 Jun 08 |  Euro 2008


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