Nigel de Jong led the praise for Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli after an impressive performance in Saturday's 4-1 win over Aston Villa.

The mercurial Italian opened the scoring mid-way through the first period, beating former City stopper Shay Given with an overhead kick from inside the box.

Whilst other forwards have been taking the headlines at the Etihad Stadium, not always for the right reasons, Balotelli has quietly gone about his business and continues to produce impressive results on the pitch.

De Jong notes that an improvement in training also hasn't gone unnoticed, and his teammates are delighted with how 'Super Mario' is integrating with his colleagues.

"I think he is getting it now, slowly but surely. You have to give him credit for the last couple of weeks, not just on the pitch but in training," said the Dutch international.

"He is behaving quite normal for him. Nobody ever doubted his qualities but with great qualities you have big responsibilities as well – not only on the pitch but outside as well.

"I think he has showed that in the last couple of weeks."

The Citizens have massive matches ahead, with Villarreal in the Champions League and Manchester United in the derby next on the agenda for Roberto Mancini's side.


Sitting at the top of the Barclays Premier League table, De Jong knows that hard work will be key to remaining ahead of their bitter-rivals, and that victory is crucial in Europe against Spanish opposition.

"They are two massive games. The Champions League is the first one and it is obvious we have to win to proceed to the next stage," De Jong continued.

"After that is the United game, which will be massive, No.1 and two against each other. We just have to prepare ourselves very well and focus again now."

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