Roberto Mancini plays down Mario Balotelli's spat with Micah Richards

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has laughed off the training bust-up between fiery Italian striker Mario Balotelli and team-mate Micah Richards.

The duo clashed towards the end of a practice match, with witnesses claiming they exchanged words and squared up.

"I ask him 'Why always you?'" said Mancini, a reference to the T-shirt Balotelli revealed after scoring against Manchester United in October.

Full-back Richards also dismissed the incident through his Twitter account.

It was the fourth time Balotelli has been pictured fighting with team-mates - contributing to a chequered history, on and off-the-field, in his short-time at City.

He has also been red carded in three matches and, most recently, needed firefighters to rescue him from his Cheshire home after fireworks were released inside.

But Mancini made a joke of the spat between Balotelli and Richards at City's Carrington training ground on Thursday.

He said: "Richards said it was because he [Balotelli] didn't pass the ball to him. It was a really stupid thing. It was nothing. After 10 minutes it was finished.

"I was always involved in problems on the training ground, with Trevor Francis and Liam Brady (at Sampdoria). It happens.

"When you play a match eight versus eight and you are passionate, it can happen with every team. Not every week, but often.

"Mario and Micah were boxing, but they are like twins. They are very good friends."

It is not the first time Balotelli has been involved in controversy on the training pitch.

Last season he reacted angrily to a tackle by Jerome Boatengexternal-link and was also photographed clashing with Vincent Kompany in May.

His Italian compatriot Mancini, who signed the 21-year-old in a reported £24m move from Inter Milan in August 2010, has again defended his player.

He added: "This has happened with Mario four times now. He is the king for this. But it has happened with other players.

"However, Mario should pay attention, not just about this, but in every situation.

"We are near Christmas, at the end of the year it is very dangerous time for fireworks. It is better he stays in the hotel."

Richards tweetedexternal-link: "Me & Mario are all good! "These things happen in training and we shook hands after. It shows passion!"

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