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CHRIS TUPLING

STATS European Football Writer

(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Manchester City midfielder Nigel De Jong has told homesick Mario Balotelli to 'smile more' as City chase Premier League glory – starting with a beaming grin from the Italian during Saturday's clash with Blackpool.

Former Inter Milan star Balotelli struck a hat-trick against Aston Villa last time out but rumours persist that the temperamental 24 millions pounds striker is unhappy with life in England.

De Jong said: "I've told Mario, 'You've got to keep smiling when you score'. Not everyone can score goals – I still haven't scored in almost two years here – so Mario needs to keep smiling when he manages it.

"Sometimes his body language is not what you would want to have on the pitch, but he is a winner and he always wants to win and score. He is quite critical about himself. If he loses the ball or doesn't score a great opportunity, he criticises himself.

"But he is a top bloke and, at 20, he is still very young. In England, they don't care if you are still just 20 and still a boy.

"He is prepared to work hard for the team and he knows what to do to be successful.

"Some cultures are different to others and the English culture is all about hardness, toughness and trying to be a man as soon as possible.

"That's just the culture and maybe it's a bit different, but he is becoming a man real quick and you can see that against Villa.

"The only thing we ask of him is that he scores goals and that's what he's done."

City are set to be at full-strength for the visit of the Seasiders, with their only notable absentee Emmanuel Adebayor, who is still sidelined with a calf injury.

Blackpool boss Ian Holloway has backed his surprise package side to cap a 'perfect' 2010 with a winning start to 2011 against one of the Premier League's big boys.

Holloway has seen his side defy all pre-season predictions of a long struggle in the top-flight to notch memorable away wins over Liverpool and Newcastle.

Holloway said: "I am so proud and I could go on about it for ages because our team spirit and our camaraderie is incredible.

"I just want to congratulate everybody for what they have done because it is fantastic and I couldn't be happier with this club.

"In this league you have to earn results by will, desire and organisation, and we have done that. 2010 has been a fantastic year for us.

"We are learning all the time and improving all the time, and hopefully we will keep that up in 2011.

"I think the difference between Arsenal, when we conceded six, and Chelsea in the first half, when we had four put past us, is massive. That wouldn't happen now."

Marlon Harewood and goalkeeper Matt Gilks are pushing hard for recalls but will likely have to make do with spots on the bench. Blackpool are still without long-term injury absentees Billy Clarke and Chris Basham.

Updated December 30, 2010

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