Mancini and Balotelli in altercation

Roberto Mancini played down talk of another altercation with his volatile Italian forward Mario Balotelli as Manchester City’s frustrating start to their Premier League title defence continued with a 1-1 home draw against Arsenal.

Laurent Koscielny scored a late equaliser for Arsene Wenger’s team at Eastlands on Sunday.

After the final whistle, Balotelli was pushed down the tunnel by City manager Mancini after shouting in his direction as he left the field – presumably discussing why he’d played just the final six minutes of the game.

“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if he asked me something, but it’s not important,” said Italian boss Mancini.

“Mario probably thinks it was important. Tomorrow I will ask him, next time I see him.”

Mancini dealt with similar claims of a rift last week in which a report suggested he was unhappy with his star player’s habit of smoking.

The City manager was also said to be unimpressed by allegations Balotelli had been spotted on a night out last Sunday, 48 hours before the Champions League defeat at Real Madrid – a game for which the STG24 million ($A38 million) striker did not even manage a place on the substitutes’ bench.

Balotelli has only played 175 minutes of football for City this season, spread over four games, and the Italian can now expect a prominent role in his team’s League Cup third round tie at home to Aston Villa on Tuesday.

The manner in which Balotelli responds will be keenly watched although Mancini insisted before the weekend that “my patience is endless” when it comes to dealing with the temperamental forward.

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