Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli, left out in the cold

Mario Balotelli has been left out of the Manchester City team to take on Stoke City in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday 26 January. Manager Roberto Mancini has not even given the striker a position on the substitutes' bench.

The temperamental Italian has been repeatedly linked with a move away from the Etihad Stadium during the January transfer window.

The fourth round FA Cup clash with Stoke City would have been a rare opportunity for Balotelli to stake his claim for a regular place in the City side, or at least the squad. He has scored just three goals in English competitions all season.

Stoke have failed to win any of their last six games. In contrast, Manchester City have five on the bounce and not conceded a single goal in their last four.

Balotelli, 22, has been the subject of heavy transfer speculation since a training ground tussle with boss Roberto Mancini was beamed around the world.

The unpredictable Italian has been involved in a series of spats during an eventful two years with the English Premier League champions. He famously set fire to his bathroom the night before scoring two goals in City's 6-1 demolition of Manchester United last season.

Leading the race for the striker's signature is reported to be AC Milan, despite owner Silvio Berlusconi appearing to rule out a move for the player, whom Manchester City signed from their San Siro co-habitants, Inter.

But Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has urged City to drop their £28m asking price for Balotelli, according to the Guardian.

Manager Mancini has spoken of being light on players for the squad, making Balotelli's omission doubly surprising.

"I don't know but we don't have enough players. We are 18 players now. We can't sell any players," reported the Guardian.

The Stoke City team for the fourth round FA Cup tie is as follows: Sorensen; Shotton, Huth, Shawcross, Wilkinson; Kightly, Nzonzi, Whelan, Etherington; Walters, Jones

The Manchester City team for the fourth round tie is as follows: Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov; Garcia, Barry, Milner, Silva; Tevez, Dzeko.

Stoke City v Manchester City kicks off at 12.45pm GMT. The match will be shown live on ITV and ITV HD in the UK, with coverage beginning at 12.10pm. Live radio commentary is available on Talksport.