International preview: Clark relishing potential Balotelli battle
Ciaran Clark is looking forward to the chance of a Mario Balotelli battle on Saturday.
Republic of Ireland face Italy in a friendly at Craven Cottage, kick-off 7.45pm.
Clark will be vying for a centre-back role in Martin O'Neill's side for the exciting encounter.
And he thinks taking on the enigmatic striker will provide stiff competition.
Villa defender Clark came up against Balotelli in the Barclays Premier League when the forward played for Man City - but this will be a chance to renew acquaintances with the 23-year-old, who is now at Milan.
Clark said: "Obviously Mario has gone abroad - back to Italy.
"I have played against him a couple of times. I am sure a few of the other lads have as well.
"He's obviously a brilliant player.
"You never know what you're going to get from him. Sometimes he can be out of the game and then he produces one moment of magic and everyone sees what he's got.
"He'll be a tough opponent to come up against, regardless of who plays this weekend."
Clark will be eager to impress his old claret and blue club boss O'Neill, who will be watching on eagerly as Ireland face Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal over the next fortnight.
Clark added: "There are chances all over the pitch.
"When a new manager comes in, it gives you opportunities to impress. I think everyone will get a chance to play a part in the next few games. That'll be good.
"Now is the time to try and impress the gaffer."
As well as Clark, on Saturday May 31, Ron Vlaar is with the Netherlands as they face Ghana at 7.30pm in the Feyenoord Stadium in Rotterdam.
On Sunday June 1, Brad Guzan is back in action, with USA facing Turkey, kick-off 7pm at the Red Bull Arena at New Jersey.
On Tuesday June 3, Weimann's Austria face Czech Republic at the Andruv Stadium in Olomouc, kick-off 7pm.
Ireland face Costa Rica in PPL Stadium, Philadelphia on June 6 and Portugal in Metlife Stadium, New Jersey on June 10.
In other news, Callum Robinson played 90 minutes as England U19s suffered last-minute heartbreak against Ukraine as a late own-goal gave the visitors a 1-0 victory at Burton and eliminated Noel Blake's men from the European Championship.
Following wins in each of their previous Elite Round group games, the Young Lions went into the fixture knowing either a win or a draw would be enough to book their place in Hungary.
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