LONDON: Manchester City’s FA Cup preparations have been thrown into turmoil by yet another training ground bust-up involving Mario Balotelli.
The Italy striker had to be separated from Blues boss Roberto Mancini, who reacted after Balotelli caught Scott Sinclair with a late challenge.
Although officials have attempted to play down the incident, which two sources have said was a “storm in a tea-cup”, pictures indicate a clash of tempers, with Mancini appearing particularly animated and angry.
Members of the City coaching team dragged Balotelli away from his boss, who was shown to be pointing at the forward following the initial tackle.
Mancini is also seen grabbing Balotelli’s orange bid as he made his feelings known, even though the younger man towers over the former Italy international.
City refused to comment, yet again citing the public access around their training ground as the reason why what they regard as a relatively minor incident should cause such a stir.
However, Mancini is due to speak with the media on Friday morning ahead of the third-round tie with Watford, which Sergio Aguero seems certain to miss with the hamstring injury he suffered in the New Year’s Day win over Stoke.
This weekend’s game is certain to be overshadowed by Balotelli’s latest scrape, which places further question marks over his City future.
For, whilst it is not the first furious argument Balotelli and Mancini have had – the pair have exchanged words both on the training ground and in matches – it does come in a period where the City manager’s faith in the striker is beginning to wane.
Even last season, when Balotelli’s dismissal at Arsenal in April led to Mancini declaring he might never play for the club again, there was always a thought he would eventually come good.
After providing the pass for Aguero’s last-gasp title-winning goal against QPR the following month, Balotelli went on to enjoy a superb Euro 2012, which his performance in Italy’s semi-final win over Germany in Warsaw widely accepted as one of the best individual displays of the entire tournament.
Yet a lacklustre performance in the final has been followed by some inept contributions for City.
He has scored only two Premier League goals this season and was singled out by Mancini for some pointed comments after another dismal performance against Manchester United last month when he was surprisingly preferred to Carlos Tevez, but was replaced early in the second half.
After the 3-2 defeat, Mancini warned Balotelli he risked wasting his considerable talent by failing to devote enough time to his career.
The former Inter Milan frontman has not played since, partly due to Mancini’s own selection decisions but also a slight virus.
With Aguero facing a short spell on the sidelines, Mancini needs a positive contribution from Balotelli.
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