Mancini backtracks on Balotelli

Italian could face United at Etihad Stadium on 30th April

Roberto Mancini: Had said Mario Balotelli was 'finished' at Manchester City after red card

Mario Balotelli: Striker saw red in defeat at Arsenal

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Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is ready to throw controversial striker Mario Balotelli into the potential title decider against Manchester United.

The Italian forward's season had seemingly been ended last Sunday by his red card against Arsenal and a separate expected retrospective punishment for a challenge on Alex Song.

Mancini had said Balotelli was 'finished' ahead of a possible nine-match ban and admitted he would 'probably' sell the 21-year-old he bought for £24milllion in 2010.

But the Football Association did not act on the challenge on Song and so Balotelli is only suspended for three games, one of which he served in Wednesday's win over West Brom.

The former Inter Milan man will also sit out the fixtures against Norwich and Wolves, but would then be eligible for the meeting with United at Etihad Stadium on 30th April.

Pleased

And so Mancini has backtracked, as he said: "I thought Mario would be banned for six or seven games, that's why I said he wouldn't play again this season.

"He only got three games, so I'm pleased for this. He will be back for Manchester United. He will be ready."

City's win over West Brom combined with defending champions United's shock defeat by Wigan means the gap at the top of the Premier League is now just five points.

Mancini has maintained City's title race is over, but they could move to within two points of United, for 24 hours at least, if they win on Saturday at Norwich.

United then on Sunday host Aston Villa at Old Trafford in what will be a crucial game for Sir Alex Ferguson's men in the wake of the loss at Wigan.