Premier League - Mancini and Balotelli in training ground bust-up

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."

Balotelli is reported to have taken exception to Mancini's intervention, leading to the pair having to be pulled apart.

In the sequence of pictures, Mancini is seen striding towards Balotelli, pointing in an aggressive manner.

He is then seen to grab hold of Balotelli's orange bib in an apparent act of fury before the young striker is dragged away by a member of City's coaching staff.

A short time later, Balotelli is believed to have left the training ground at Carrington, on the outskirts of Manchester.

Balotelli's habit of attracting negative press has seen him frequently become the subject of criticism, but Mancini has always been a firm ally of the temperamental but talented striker.

The Italy international's form has been poor this season and he was recently involved in a dispute over a fine he received from the club.

However, Mancini said on December 31: "The relationship between me and him is always good.

"I love him because for many years we live together, and I’ve seen him grow. But the professional relationship is another thing, and I’ve told Mario what I need from him."

The Mancini-Balotelli confrontation is not the first to be captured at City's training ground, which is not totally enclosed.

Balotelli has also had confrontations with former team-mate Jerome Boateng, Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards, while Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor were also involved in a melee on one occasion.