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Mancini: Balotelli spat nothing special
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has played down his latest confrontation with controversial striker Mario Balotelli.
Mancini was photographed grappling with his fellow Italian in a training ground bust-up on Thursday but the City boss insists the matter was not serious.
Mancini, speaking at a press conference to preview this weekend's FA Cup third-round clash with Watford, said: "I think the photos show the worst of what happened. It was nothing special. There was no fight, this was not true."
The incident occurred after a bad tackle by Balotelli on Scott Sinclair during a training match. Mancini said: "We were playing a game and Mario kicked his team-mate. I said to him, 'Go inside, leave the pitch'. He said no and I took his shirt and pushed him out of the pitch. This is what really happened, nothing special."
When asked if he lost his temper, Mancini said: "No, no. For two seconds, yes - during three or four seconds because he didn't want to leave the pitch. He can't do this against no one, but then it was finished."
The clash is one of a number of controversies to have involved 22-year-old Balotelli since he joined the club in 2010 and has fuelled fresh speculation he could be sold. But Mancini, who has given the striker numerous chances to redeem himself, insists his patience has not yet run out.
He said: "No, I don't change my thoughts for this. I will give him another 100 chances if possible, if I think he can change. I am here for this. Sometimes I am upset with him because he doesn't everything for this, but I give him another chance, sure. He is 22 and he can do a mistake."
When asked if Balotelli would face any disciplinary action, Mancini said: "No, no. This doesn't change my thoughts. This is something that can happen. Usually it is between two players. It is different because I wanted him to leave the pitch after what he did."
Balotelli has not played for City since being substituted in the disappointing derby loss to Manchester United on December 9. He was dropped for the next match at Newcastle and it emerged soon after that Balotelli was planning to take the club to a Premier League tribunal in a dispute over an internal fine.
He dropped that challenge but his since missed the last four games due to a virus. When asked if Balotelli could start against Watford, Balotelli said: "No, he trained only four times this week. Not in the starting line-up, maybe on the bench. I spoke with Mario yesterday after training, I speak with him always. It is not easy to manage him and we can talk about him, but my thoughts about him don't change."