Mario Balotelli said he was “in great shape” as he prepares to return to Serie A on Tuesday with his first game for his hometown club Brescia against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Italian champions Juventus.
“Mario will be there Tuesday,” confirmed coach Eugenio Corini of the Italian striker whose debut was delayed by a four-game suspension for a red card while playing for former club Marseille.
The 29-year-old has been getting fit during that time as he looks to impress Italy coach Roberto Mancini and earn a spot in the Euro 2020 team.
“My objective is to play for Italy at the Euros, but my main aim right now is to get into shape as quickly as possible for Brescia,” Balotelli told DAZN.
It will be Balotelli’s third time playing in Italy after Inter Milan and AC Milan.
“I’ve worked harder in the last month and a half than in a decade,” continued the former Liverpool striker.
“I’m ready. I’ve only played two friendlies, and have not played 90 minutes, but I am in great shape. The last time I was at this weight, I was at Manchester City.”
Balotelli, who has 36 caps for Italy, has not crossed paths with Ronaldo in a decade since the Portuguese star was playing for Manchester United.
But he insisted: “Ronaldo’s presence doesn’t really interest me. I’ll try to score and play the way I will in any game.”
The Italian won three Serie A titles with Inter Milan and the Champions League in 2010 before moving to Manchester City where he won the Premier League title in 2012.
Brescia were promoted to Serie A this year, after being relegated in 2011, and are 11th in Serie A after two wins in four games.
Juventus are trailing leaders Inter Milan by two points, as new coach Maurizio Sarri continues to experiment with the eight-time reigning champions.
Inter Milan push for their fifth win against Lazio in the San Siro, after their derby success over AC Milan, with the Romans looking to build on their win over Parma.
Napoli, in third, host Cagliari with AS Roma hosting Atalanta.
At the bottom of the table, Fiorentina chases their first win against Sampdoria who moved ahead of the Tuscans after beating Torino for their first points this season.
Torino wants to avoid a third consecutive league defeat at home against AC Milan, who are 12th.
One to watch: Racism
FIFA president Gianni Infantino weighed in after the on-going problem with racism in Italian stadiums took centre stage again at the weekend.
Fiorentina’s Brazilian defender Dalbert asked the referee to halt play against Atalanta on Sunday after racist chanting.
“We need clear sentences, as in England, we must not be afraid to condemn the racists,” said Infantino.
Inter Milan’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and AC Milan’s Ivorian midfielder Franck Kessie have been targeted by monkey cries this season without any sanction being taken.
AC Milan has announced they were establishing an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.
902 – Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has matched Paolo Maldini’s Italian record of club matches
13 – Napoli’s goals in the first four league games; the second-best performance after 15 in the 2017/2018 season
4 – Mario Balotelli’s goals against Juventus — three in Coppa Italia; one in Serie A
2 – Cristiano Ronaldo’s league goals this season
Fixtures (all times GMT):
Verona v Udinese (1700GMT), Brescia v Juventus (1900)
AS Roma v Atalanta (1700), SPAL v Lecce, Genoa v Bologna, Parma v Sassuolo, Napoli v Cagliari, Inter Milan v Lazio, Fiorentina v Sampdoria
Torino v AC Milan (1900)