'Super Mario' came to
Manchester City's rescue on Thursday night in , but there wasn't a single moustachioed, red-dungaree-sporting plumber in sight. It was Mario Balotelli, City's latest big money striker, who came off the bench against Romania Timisoara to save his new team the slight embarrassment of returning to without a first leg advantage in the Europa League. England
It took 72 minutes for Roberto Mancini's side to break the deadlock on Thursday and before that, 90 had passed without a goal at
White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. At this early stage of the season one goal from two games is hardly drought material but, given the money spent by Mancini in the summer, it won’t be long before critics are asking questions of the Italian's acquisitions.
Mancini has conceded it could take a few weeks for City's star-studded line-up to gel and become a genuine force to be reckoned with in the Premier League, but the former Inter boss will be hoping to set the wheels in motion with a victory at Eastlands on Monday.
It has been a week of ups and downs for Liverpool; on the pitch they carried the momentum of a draw with Arsenal on the opening day into a midweek Europa League meeting with Trabzonspor where they came out on top thanks to a solitary goal from Ryan Babel, though a one-goal lead could prove difficult to hold on to with the notorious Turkish crowd breathing down their necks.
Joe Cole misses the trip to Eastlands and missed a penalty on Thursday night to round off a disappointing week for him, while Chinese businessman Kenny Huang pulled out of a takeover that would have seen the club free of the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and Alberto Aquilani will be in Italy on Monday ahead of a loan move to Juventus.
Two players who look likely to stay with the club are Javier Mascherano and Dirk Kuyt, though. Both had been linked with moves to Inter, but manager Roy Hodgson believes the European champions will not move for the pair. It is a massive boost for the Reds, who will be keen to prove the City revolution will not prevent them from returning to the top four, and what better way to do that than with a win on Monday night?
James Milner could make his debut for City after completing his switch from Aston Villa this week, but fellow summer signings Aleksandar Kolarov and Jerome Boateng are injured, while
is also a doubt. Wayne Bridge
Mario Balotelli looks likely to recover from the knee problem that saw him limping after his first appearance against
in midweek and could start. Timisoara
Possible Starting XI: Hart; Richards, Kolo Toure, Kompany, Zabaleta; Yaya Toure, De Jong; Milner; Tevez, Balotelli, Silva.
Roy Hodgson rested a host of first team players on Thursday, many of whom are likely to return to the starting line-up, including Javier Mascherano, who could return after a calf injury. Daniel Agger, however, is struggling with concussion.
Fernando Torres may also get his first start of the season after appearing as a second half substitute against Arsenal and Trabzonspor. Joe Cole begins a three-game suspension after his red card against the Gunners.
Possible Starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Mascherano, Poulsen; Kuyt, Gerrard, Jovanovic; Torres.