Mario Balotelli returned to Manchester on Monday with manager Roberto Mancini spying the derby clash at Old Trafford later this month as a potential comeback match for the controversial Italian.

Mancini has been relieved to discover the knee injury Balotelli suffered scoring a hat-trick against Aston Villa on December 28 is not as bad as he initially feared and the youngster will not require an operation.

He will not be considered for Wednesday's Premier League trip to Birmingham though, or the home encounter with West Brom at the weekend and Mancini said: "I hope everything is okay with Mario. I think he could be ready for the derby."

Balotelli could end up being part of a pretty potent strikeforce for the Eastlands outfit, with skipper Carlos Tevez and £27million new-boy Edin Dzeko, whose status as the biggest transfer of the January window was blown out of the water by the staggering deals involving Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll.

But Dzeko has already made a significant contribution on the field, scoring the equaliser at Notts County that staved off the potential for total humiliation at Meadow Lane.


Unlike Torres and Carroll, Dzeko is having to get accustomed to life in England.

And, although the Bundesliga is often portrayed as the second most physical league in Europe, the former Wolfsburg front-man has been caught out by the sheer strength of the teams he is encountering.

"It's very different and harder than the Bundesliga," he said. "I never played any games like this in Germany, not when you have to fight for 90 minutes.

"But if I want to be successful in England, I have to get used to it."

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