Roberto Mancini denied Mario Balotelli was dropped for disciplinary reasons in Manchester City’s 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Mancini also insisted he had no problem with Joe Hart after the goalkeeper was critical of his team-mates for losing a 2-1 lead in the last five minutes in the Bernabeu.
Balotelli was not even a substitute for the match, leading to reports that he had been omitted after a night out, but Mancini said it was a tactical decision with Carlos Tevez chosen as the sole striker and Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero the attackers he preferred on the bench.
“It is totally false what someone wrote,” he said. “It is not true. Mario was in the stand only because we decided to play with only Tevez and I only had three strikers [in the 18].”
Hart declared that City “threw it away” after Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo scored late goals, and in Madrid Mancini had said that he should be the one to criticise his team, not the goalkeeper. However, three days later, he declared: “I don’t have any problem with Joe. I was agreeing with him.”
The Italian downplayed his decision to leave Joleon Lescott on the bench in Madrid, when teenage debutant Matija Nastasic was preferred. “Joleon is an important player for us, like all the others,” he explained.
The City manager said Aguero could make his first appearance since the opening game of the league season when Arsenal visit the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. “Sergio is fit,” he said. “We are unlucky because I wanted to put him on the in the Bernabeu but we had a couple of injuries.”
However, Samir Nasri is set to miss the meeting with his former club. The France international was substituted with a hamstring problem in Madrid and Mancini said: “I don’t think he will be ready for Sunday.”