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Why always him? The best Mario Balotelli bets ahead of England v Italy

The Italian could well be a key figure when the Azzurri take on Roy Hodgson's side in Kiev, but will the Manchester City man make headlines for the right reasons?

BETTING
By Jim Knight

We're all used to seeing betting markets about whether Mario Balotelli will score, if so, how many, or how his team will fare in the match with or without him in the team. He's one of the Premier League's biggest personalities but how will he fare against England for his country on Sunday at Euro 2012?

Thanks to Sportingbet, we've brought together all the best mainstream markets plus some very special prices ahead of this crucial Anglo-Italian quarter-final clash.

If you haven't got a Sportingbet account, they offer a risk-free first for all new customers so if you want to take advantage of any of these markets, you can do so by signing up here.

TO SCORE ANYTIME - 11/4


Balotelli may have struggled to have an impact on Italy's first two games against Spain and Croatia, having been substituted in the second half of both, but his late strike against Ireland showed just what he is capable of in front of goal.

Shrugging off the attentions of his marker he rifled a crisp volley past a helpless Shay Given in the Irish goal, the strength was impressive but the technique with which he was able to covert was sublime and Roy Hodgson will be all too aware of what he can do. He's 11/4 to find the net anytime against England.

TO SCORE TWO OR MORE - 16/1


Sporadically, Balotelli played a crucial role in Manchester City's title-winning season and got on the scoresheet more than once on two occasions, both in very different circumstances. His double against Manchester United in the infamous 6-1 win at Old Trafford announced that City were more than just noisy neighbours, they were serious title contenders.

His second double came in the 3-3 draw at Sunderland in late March which helped to rescue an unlikely point at the Stadium of Light, a gutsy performance which characterised the relentless and unforgiving attitude that saw his side claim their first Premier League trophy. At 16/1, he's a tempting bet to get on the scoresheet more than once in this match and get the better of Manchester City team-mates.

TO SCORE DIRECT FROM A FREE KICK - 12/1


Dead balls have been somewhat of a speciality for Italy at this tournament. The mercurial Andra Pirlo netted from a majestic free kick against Croatia and Antonio Cassano opened the scoring against a somewhat stubborn Irish defence after Pirlo had floated in an inviting corner.

Balotelli is capable of causing problems from set pieces too, though. He will put himself forward for any shooting opportunities around the penalty area, and who could forget the famous confrontation with Aleksandar Kolarov at Manchester City over who would take the free kick responsibility against Sunderland? Sportingbet offer 12/1 that Balotelli find's the net directly from a free kick in this game.

TO BE SHOWN A YELLOW CARD - 7/4


Unsurprisingly, this is the shortest of the prices available. The fiery frontman has a chequered disciplinary record, having been booked six times in just 23 appearances for Manchester City in the last campaign, he also racked up another half-dozen bookings in the previous season at Etihad Stadium.

He is notoriously short tempered and with several of his club-mates in the England ranks, questions remain over whether or not he can contain his frustration with himself and others, especially in such high profile games. Balotelli picked up an early booking against Spain for a late tackle on Sergio Ramos and there's every chance he could find his name being taken in this match at 7/4.


TO BE SENT OFF - 18/1


Three red cards in his comparatively short Manchester City career thus far says it all, although he is yet to be dismissed for the Azzurri. The most recent of his disciplinary problems in the Premier League came against Arsenal when he received a second booking late in the game and was given his marching orders by Martin Atkinson at the Emirates Stadium.

Balotelli can consdier himself extremely lucky to be on the pitch to see that second yellow card though, he could have easily been given red for a rash and reckless challenge on Alex Song earlier in the game. Another red card for the Italian against England is priced at 18/1 here.

TO REVEAL A T-SHIRT AS A CELEBRATION


Why Always Me? That was Balotelli's response, in t-shirt form, to the constant media speculation about him when he scored in the first Manchester derby of the Premier League season. It was an image that would become synonymous with his outlandish antics and extravagant celebrations in the months to come.

A character who is well known for his enigmatic and imaginative methods of celebration, more slogan based antics can't be ruled out from Balotelli on Sunday. The Old Trafford incident wasn't a one off though.

Following Balotelli opening the scoring against Blackburn in a 3-0 win, he revealed a slogan professing his love to his girlfriend at the time. Sportingbet offer tempting odds of 10/1 that he reveals another t-shirt in celebration of a goal against England. 

TO SCORE A PENALTY IN A SHOOT-OUT


Italy's game against England has been well touted as potentially being the first one where penalties are needed to separate the two sides and that is pressure that can unnerve even the most composed of penalty takers.

If he remains on the pitch after 120 minutes, Balotelli is priced at 18/1 to miss a spot-kick in a shoot-out.

It could well be a more complex battle than just striker against goalkeeper though, with Joe Hart and Balotelli both having spent much of the last two seasons training with each other at Manchester City. Who would get the upper hand if they squared off from 12 yards in this game?

TO MISS A PENALTY IN A SHOOT-OUT


In terms of high pressure situations, a last-minute penalty against Tottenham in a game where he could of already been sent off is pretty high on the list.

True to form, Balotelli rolled the ball home from 12 yards to secure three points, which proved pivotal in the Premier League title race and he is 8/1 to score a penalty in a potential shoot-out between these two teams.

In every test he has faced so far in a Manchester City shirt Balotelli has passed with flying colours, scoring with every penalty he's taken and this selection is sure to be a popular choice for those who have seen him slot home from the spot in the past. 

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