England goalkeeper Joe Hart believes his and Joleon Lescott’s time at Manchester City with Italy striker Mario Balotelli could benefit them in Sunday’s Euro 2012 quarter-final.
Roy Hodgson’s side face the Azzurri on Sunday evening, with 21-year-old Balotelli pushing for a return to Cesare Prandelli’s starting line-up after coming off the bench to score against Republic of Ireland on Monday.
James Milner is another Manchester City player who looks likely to feature for the Three Lions against the Azzurri, and Hart is looking forward to the prospect of facing Balotelli, but is also wary of the threat posed by his club-mate.
“He could be a great threat, he’s a great player,” Hart told reporters. “But as well as me knowing him, more importantly Joleon knows him, who he’ll probably come up against if he plays.
“It’s going to be a totally different occasion, I’ve never actually played against the guy. But it’ll be a lot of fun and it’ll be interesting to see what he brings to the table.”
The 25-year-old also spoke of the “great achievement” the Three Lions have made by reaching the knockout stage, and revealed the team knew the importance of the opening group game against France.
“[Reaching the quarter-finals is] obviously a great achievement, something we set out to do at the start of the tournament,” he added.
“We identified the first game as key, against France, to get off to a good start. We obviously wanted to win it, but to get a draw with a solid performance and then follow it up with the two performances after that is a good start to the tournament for us.”