Mario Balotelli’s race against time to be fit for Real challenge

City are hopeful Mario Balotelli will be fit to face Real Madrid in their opening Champions League game after undergoing eye surgery this week.

The 22-year-old missed the Community Shield win over Chelsea after a bout of conjunctivitis meant he couldn’t get his contact lenses in.

The Italian striker is set to have corrective surgery this week and will miss Italy’s World Cup qualifiers against Bulgaria and Malta. But David Platt insisted reports he will miss a month are wide of the mark. Balotelli faces a race against time to be fit for City’s visit to Stoke on September 15. But Platt is hopeful he will be available for the trip to the Bernabeu three days later.

“To be honest, it’s just a normal procedure,” said Platt.

“We’ve waited. He’s needed the operation to make sure the next time he did get conjunctivitis he can still get through because the problem is putting his contact lenses in.

“We’ve waited until the natural gap of the international break. It shouldn’t be a problem.  I think he is okay, it is just a normal procedure. It is just a minor operation.

“The contact lenses are the issue when he gets it, conjunctivitis. He can’t get his contact lenses in, so he can’t really play.” With Sergio Aguero sidelined with a knee injury, Balotelli’s absence leaves Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko as Roberto Mancini’s only fit first-team strikers.

Aguero, injured on the opening weekend of the season against Southampton, will miss Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers this week but Mancini is hopeful the 24-year-old will be available for the trip to Stoke.

And despite Balotelli’s planned surgery, Mancini chose not to add another striker to his squad on deadline day.

“With Sergio we hope after the international break and he can come back after Stoke or Arsenal,” said Mancini.

“I’m happy with our four strikers.”

Mancini is also missing Gareth Barry and Micah Richards. The City manager revealed Barry, who suffered a groin injury during England’s European Championship warm-up against Norway, could be out for another month.

Richards, meanwhile, hasn’t been given a return date after suffering an ankle injury during the Olympics. On deadline day, Mancini signed Inter right-back Maicon to provide competition for current first-choice Pablo Zabaleta.

“Gareth is getting better but I think he need three or four weeks more,” said Mancini.

“He played 45 minutes with the reserves and it was his first game after three months. He needs to continue to train and another game. Maybe three or four weeks.”

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