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Balotelli has responded to a kick up the backside, says Nice team-mate Cardinale

17 February 2017 17:14

Mario Balotelli has responded impressively to a "kick up the backside" from Nice head coach Lucien Favre, according to team-mate Yoan Cardinale.

The striker scored six times in his first five Ligue 1 matches following his Liverpool exit, helping to kick-start Nice's surprise title charge.

His form has suffered a dip in recent weeks as Nice's challenge has begun to derail and, having been relegated to the bench for the win over Saint-Etienne, he missed out on the matchday squad for last week's draw with Rennes through illness.

Team-mate Valentin Eysseric subsequently called Balotelli's work-rate into question but Cardinale says he has looked focused and ready to impress during training this week.

"When he makes a mess of a shot in training, he insults himself, he gets annoyed, but that's what makes him strong," the goalkeeper said, as quoted by ESPN. "When he's not scoring, he doesn't stop.

"Like every player, there's competition for places and the coach makes his choices. He wasn't happy to be substitute, but I don't know any player that's happy to be on the bench.

"But it gave him a big kick up the backside, and this week he's been very good in training. He's met all the coach's expectations."

Balotelli is expected to start against Lorient on Saturday due to a knee injury sustained by Alassane Plea.

Nice, who sit third in the table after 25 games, are five points behind leaders Monaco.

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