Mario Balotelli

Forward Mario Balotelli has been dropped by Italy coach Roberto Mancini for Monday’s Nations League game against European champions Portugal in Lisbon.

Nice striker Balotelli came under fire for his performance in their Nations League opener against Poland on Friday, where the Azzurri were held 1-1.

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The 28-year-old was substituted with a muscular problem, with Mancini conceding his fitness level was a problem.

It will be the first game which Balotelli has not played since Mancini took over last May after the four-time winners’ devastating failure to qualify for the World Cup.

But Balotelli has made the trip to Portugal with the squad as Mancini considers him to be a central figure in the team he is trying to rebuild.

Balotelli had played in all four games so far under Mancini, scoring in a 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia.

Mancini’s other two friendlies were a 3-1 defeat to World Cup winners France and a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands.

Lorenzo Pellegrini has also been left out along with Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, Juventus defender Daniele Rugani, and Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo.

Mancini confirmed that Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa would start after the 20-year-old proved pivotal when he came on last Friday, along with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Balotelli’s place could be taken by either Andrea Belotti or Ciro Immobile.