Mario Balotelli scores twice for Manchester City U21 side in friendly

Mario Balotelli: The enigmatic striker had valuable match practice following his virus-enforced absence.

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Mario Balotelli has made a return to goal scoring form with Manchester City's U21 side.

The Italian striker scored twice in a 4-0 friendly win over Blackburn Rovers that took place at City's Platt Lane youth academy on Monday afternoon.

Balotelli twice passed up the opportunity to make it a hat-trick, giving younger team-mates the chance to score from the penalty spot rather than take the opportunities himself.

A goal in the City senior side's win over Wigan on 28th November was the last of three so far this season for Balotelli, and since then the 22-year-old has made the headlines for off-the-field reasons.

In December the Italian international was on the verge of taking City to a tribunal over a fine of £340,000 imposed for on-field misconduct last season, before settling his dispute with the club.

Photographs of Balotelli clashing with Blues boss Roberto Mancini in training last week generated speculation over the striker's future with the Premier League champions, but Mancini dismissed the bust-up as "nothing special".

A virus forced Balotelli to miss four games before he returned to action as a substitute in City's 3-0 win over Watford in the FA Cup on Saturday.

With Sergio Aguero struggling with a hamstring injury, Balotelli's goals may have improved his case for a start against Arsenal when City visit Emirates Stadium next Sunday.