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'Time for Balotelli to focus'

MARIO BALOTELLI has been told to focus on his football career rather than glossy magazine interviews by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.

Prandelli, who coaxed from Balotelli some of the best performances of his career during Euro 2012, admitted that the Manchester City forward is 'upset' with his recent lack of action at the Etihad Stadium under manager Roberto Mancini.

The 22-year-old, dropped from the City squad for Sunday's 2-1 win against Tottenham, is expected to return to action for Italy in a friendly against France tonight.

But after appearing on the front cover of Time magazine this month, Prandelli has warned Balotelli to remember that football is his priority.

"He's a unique footballer, with a unique personality, based on what he does in his daily life." said Prandelli when asked about Balotelli's appearance in Time.

"But he must not forget that, above all, he is an athlete. It's important that a footballer is talked about for what he does on the pitch."

Prandelli added: "Mario is a bit upset about being left out by Mancini, who I know only did it for technical reasons.

"But he shouldn't take it to heart, Mancini just thinks others are in better form.

"Clearly he's not satisfied with what he's been doing, but Mario has to show that he deserves his place every day in training. He'll get his chance to prove him wrong."

City full-back Gael Clichy has withdrawn from the France squad for the clash against the Italians due to a persistent back problem and is now a doubt for Saturday's Premier League encounter with Aston Villa.

The former Arsenal defender was due to be given an injection by City's medical team in an effort to ease the injury and it is understood that he could now be rested for the Villa game in order to be fit for next Wednesday's crucial Champions League date against Real Madrid.


Defender Matija Nastasic is also a doubt for the weekend after withdrawing from Serbia's squad for the friendly against Chile with a knee injury sustained against Spurs on Sunday.

Meanwhile, City's Aleksandar Kolarov admits that the side's mastery of zonal marking has some way to go, after his own failings contributed to Tottenham Hotspur's opener on Sunday.

"We mark from zone to zone and nobody knows who needs to mark the player," said Kolarov, who may start Saturday's game against Aston Villa as Gaël Clichy undergoes a course of injections for a back complaint which renders him doubtful for that game.

"We need to improve on this, but we reacted very well to being a goal down, which is always important.

"We need to improve on set-pieces because we conceded two goals against Ajax in the Champions League and then another on Sunday," Kolarov continued.

He allowed Steven Caulker to peel off him and score on Sunday.

Clichy's injury has forced him out of the France squad this week, and City could also be without Nastasic as they seek greater defensive solidity against Villa, who put four past them in September's League Cup tie.

Clichy played the entirety of City's 2-1 win over Tottenham but felt a reaction afterwards, leading to France's match at the Ennio Tardini Stadium in Parma.

Joleon Lescott, however, is expected to be fit to face Villa as he continues to recover from a back problem which has forced him to miss the last three matches.