Milner backs Lescott to blunt Balotelli threat

The former Aston Villa man revealed the two different sides of the controversial striker, and backed his defensive colleagues to deal with him when the teams meet in Kiev
James Goldman
 In Donetsk

James Milner is confident England's defence will be strong enough to snuff out the threat of his Manchester City team-mate Mario Balotelli when the Three Lions meet Italy in Sunday's Euro 2012 quarter-final.

Balotelli has struggled to make a major impact at the tournament thus far, although he did open his goalscoring account with a stunning volley against Ireland to cement his side's place in the last eight.

England v Ukraine review

Milner, however, is confident that with the likes of Joleon Lescott and John Terry in such commanding form, his maverick club colleague is set to endure another frustrating evening.

"We [Manchester City players] might give Mario a bit of banter," he told reporters. "It was good to see him score the other night but I think the boys at the back have been outstanding so far in this tournament.

"Joleon has been like that all season for City and now he is doing it for England as well. He knows Mario well. He trains with him every day and I'm sure he will keep him quiet.

"He is a danger but he is one of many. They have a lot of good players in their team. We have to make sure we don't just concentrate on him and we will do our homework and try to perform well."

Milner also shed some light on the wild world of the former Inter striker.

"There are two Marios," he continued. "There is one who sometimes turns up in training and it is a bit cold and he is not too interested. The other time he really wants it and he is a special talent. He is a top player and we know that but the lads have been brilliant at the back.

"I'm sure they will continue to do that and hopefully we will cause them a few problems the other way."

6/1 James Milner is 6/1 to score anytime for England against Italy with William Hill

Milner's own performances in this tournament have been the subject of some criticism, with his industrious displays failing to convince many that he merits a place in the side ahead of the more spectacular wingers at Roy Hodgson's disposal.

The former Aston Villa man, however, is more than happy to perform a more functional role, as long as it continues to yield impressive results.

"I'm willing to play wherever the manager picks me. I think I play my best football in the middle but if I play wide, I'll do it to the best of my ability and follow his instructions.

"He hasn't been in the job long and he plays a different style to the previous manager and wants us tucked in, compact and tight and makes us difficult to beat, and it has worked so far."