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Man City's Mario Balotelli homesick - Roberto Mancini

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Mancini happy to keep momentum going

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has admitted that Mario Balotelli is homesick but played down reports that the Italian striker wants to leave.

Balotelli scored a hat-trick as City defeated Aston Villa 4-0 on Tuesday to stay firmly in the hunt for the title.

Mancini said: "Maybe he is homesick but I don't think it's a long-term problem. He is 20, has left his family for the first time - it's normal to miss them."

Balotelli added: "I am happy even if journalists say I want to leave."

City easily defeated an out-of-form Villa, with Balotelli scoring two superbly taken penalties as well as a close-range tap-in.

I am always happy, even when I don't smile. I feel a striker has to score. It is my job. That is why I don't smile

Mario Balotelli

The Italian played in the lone striker role with Carlos Tevez rested - and underlined his qualities with an assured display.

"It is very important to keep him. He is a very good player and he can improve a lot," added Mancini.

"I think it is very important for the guys to help Mario. This season is a very important experience for him.

"If he plays like he did today he can be one of the top players in Europe."

Balotelli, who has now scored eight times in 11 games since his arrival for a reported £24m from Inter Milan, hardly celebrates his goals which has increased the belief that he is homesick.

However, he played down speculation from the Italian media linking him with a move to AC Milan and said he was focused on helping City's title challenge.

"I am always happy, even when I don't smile. I feel a striker has to score. It is my job. That is why I don't smile," he told the club website.

"I am here and I am working hard in training. I want to be an important man for this team and the results are on the pitch.

"We can win this championship. In the new year we can be better."

City scored twice in the opening 13 minutes as they dominated a Villa side that has now won only two of their last 13 top-flight fixtures.

606: DEBATE
Beware the Moon Lads

The result lifted City to the top of the Premier League table for the first time since Sven-Goran Eriksson was in charge during the 2007-08 season - although Manchester United regained first place after they drew 1-1 with Birmingham in Tuesday's late kick-off.

"We are happy but I think we will only be top for three hours," added the City boss.

"It is important to be there at the end of the season, not now."

City won 3-1 at Newcastle on Boxing Day and Mancini made five changes to his team for the match against Villa as he rotates his squad through a busy period that see his team play four games in 11 days.

"It was important to defeat Villa after our win at Newcastle," he said. "[Making the changes] was a good decision because when you have two games in 48 hours it is very difficult."



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see also
Manchester City 4-0 Aston Villa
28 Dec 10 |  Premier League
Tuesday's football as it happened
28 Dec 10 |  Football
Tuesday's football photos
28 Dec 10 |  Football
Man City complete Balotelli deal
13 Aug 10 |  Man City


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