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Jan 4, 2013

Roberto Mancini plays down altercation

Manchester City manager plays down photos of him and Mario Balotelli having a heated argument on the training pitch

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is prepared to give controversial striker Mario Balotelli "another 100 chances" after playing down the pair's latest confrontation.

Mancini was photographed grappling with his fellow Italian in a training-ground bust-up on Thursday but he says it was not a fight and the incident was over within moments.

Mancini has repeatedly backed Balotelli throughout a long line of controversies and he insists his patience is not wearing thin despite yet another headline-grabbing episode.

"I will give him another 100 chances, if it is possible, if I think he can change. I am here for this," Mancini said. "Sometimes I am upset with him because he doesn't do everything for this, but I will give him another chance, sure. He is 22 and he can make a mistake."

Balotelli has previously been involved in training-ground confrontations with teammates Micah Richards, Jerome Boateng and Vincent Kompany.

The latest flashpoint occurred after a bad tackle by Balotelli on Scott Sinclair during a training game. Mancini ordered him to leave the field and he admits he briefly lost his temper with his former Inter Milan protege.

"For two seconds, yes - maybe three or four seconds, because he didn't want to leave the pitch," Mancini said. "He can't do this against anyone, but then it was finished. It wasn't a bad thing like (it was reported) in the papers. The photo is worse than what happened.

"We were playing a game and Mario kicked his teammate and I said to him, 'Go inside, leave the pitch'. He said 'no', and I took his shirt, I pushed him off the pitch. This is what really happened, there was no fight."

All of Balotelli's training confrontations were captured by photographers because the club's Carrington training base is flanked by public footpaths, a source of recurring frustration for the club.

Manchester United is based less than a mile away, but the situation there could not be more different, as what public access there is affords no clear view of the training ground.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson views the security measures as absolutely essential.

"You are protecting the possibility of success," Ferguson said."Do ICI send an email to another bio chemicals company telling them their new discoveries in drugs? Does any major company tell its opponents what they are doing? I am sure they don't.

"Unfortunately football has a media profile which means cameramen want to be at training sessions. I think that is ridiculous but it makes it very difficult for a coach to do their work because you don't know where the information can go. I think it stopped at Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho, but there are some places where the press are in every day. ... I don't know how you can do your tactical work.

"Fortunately, at our place, we can guard against it to a decent degree," Ferguson added, before joking: "Sometimes we get a photographer wandering over in the woods -- but we can put wolves in there!"

The photographs again brought Balotelli's future at the club into question. The Italy international has not played since the Dec. 9 derby loss to Manchester United and had been linked with a return to his homeland during this month's transfer window.

But Mancini has no intention of selling the player and nor will he subject him to disciplinary action.

"This doesn't change anything, this is something that can happen, Mancini said. "Usually it is between two players. It is different because I wanted him to leave the pitch after what he did."

But Mancini has again reiterated his often-repeated urge for Balotelli to reform his ways.

"The problem could be himself. (If) he doesn't change, for him it will be very difficult in the future -- for him, not me," Mancini said. "Mario could stay with me one day, one month, five years. He is 22 years old. He needs to change. His problem is for himself.

"It is not easy to manage him and we can talk about him, but my thoughts about him don't change. What he did yesterday he can do also during the game -- this is the problem, but I have faith, yes."

Balotelli is available for this weekend's FA Cup third-round tie against Watford after recovering from a virus but striker Sergio Aguero (hamstring) will miss out.

Mancini has said Balotelli could be on the bench but forward Samir Nasri is suspended and Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure and Abdul Razak are on international duty.

Defenders Aleksandar Kolarov and Maicon (both knee) are not yet ready to return while right-back Micah Richards (knee) and midfielder Jack Rodwell (hamstring) are longer-term casualties.

Also Friday, a Manchester City fan who stormed on to the field to confront Rio Ferdinand at the end of last month's Manchester derby was banned from attending matches for three years. Matthew Stott, 21, was told he came close to going to prison, but instead his 56-day jail term was suspended for 12 months.

Stott said he drank eight pints of lager before the game.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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