Blog - The Toe Poke, Blog Post, French Ligue 1, Leagues, Mario Balotelli, Nice, UEFA Champions League

Nice advanced to the Champions League playoff round on away goals after drawing with Ajax in the qualifier second leg.

Mario Balotelli always likes to do things a little different, doesn’t he?

Nice fans gathered in one of the city’s bars on Wednesday to watch their heroes grab a place in the Champions League playoff must have been amazed to find the biggest of their idols, Balotelli himself, sitting alongside them.

A hamstring injury meant Super Mario could not be on the Amsterdam ArenA pitch to face Ajax, but the Italy international striker, who had scored his team’s goal in the 1-1 first leg, provided support from the Cote d’Azur as Lucien Favre’s men progressed.

“Wow! Watching the game with supporters sitting in a bar is even more emotional,” he said in an Instagram post after seeing substitute Vincent Marcel score a late equaliser to make it 2-2 in the Dutch capital and take Nice through on away goals.

The injury means Balotelli will also miss Saturday’s opening league fixture against Saint-Etienne, but Friday’s playoff draw could give him extra motivation to get back to full fitness.

Former club Liverpool, whom he left in summer 2016 after failing to convince manager Jurgen Klopp of his qualities, are one of the handful of teams Nice could face for a lucrative place in the group stage.

Ian is ESPN’s French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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