Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini played down a training ground clash between Mario Balotelli and Micah Richards Friday but urged the king of controversy to keep the volatile side of his character in check.

Balotelli, who wore a T-shirt saying Why always me? in October's 6-1 win at Manchester United after a string of on and off-field antics, was in the headlines again as newspapers published photographs of a bust-up with team mate Richards.

I asked him: 'Why always you?', Mancini told a news conference.

He said: 'Because he didn't pass the ball to me' but that was a really stupid thing, for nothing, but after 10 minutes it was finished.

It was nothing, nothing special, this happens in every sport sometimes when you play a little match.

City are particularly vulnerable to photographs being taken during practice sessions because their Carrington training facility is next to a public footpath that provides an excellent vantage point.

Balotelli has provided plenty of good photo opportunities since joining the club in August 2010, including clashes with captain Vincent Kompany and former City defender Jerome Boateng.

Mancini said it was only to be expected in an environment where emotions run high and, when asked if he had been involved in similar incidents in his playing days, replied: Always!

When you play a football match eight against eight and you put passion in this match sometimes it can happen. Not every week, but often. Mario and Micah are very good friends.

He is the king for this, he added about his fellow Italian. I think Mario should pay attention, but not only in this situation.

Mancini also saw the funny side of his striker's apparent magnetism for trouble, giving the player who infamously set fire to his house by letting off fireworks indoors a word of warning ahead of the festive season.

Now because we are near Christmas and (New Year), it is very dangerous with the fire, it is better if he stays in the hotel, he laughed.

'INCREDIBLE PLAYER'

As well as his various escapades, Balotelli has provided plenty of goals and City will be hoping to see more of that side of him when Arsenal visit in the Premier League Sunday.

City are two points clear at the top of the table with 38 points from 15 matches and have been averaging more than three goals a game to stand one short of 50, 10 shy of the total they managed in the whole of last season.

Having suffered their first league defeat of the season on Monday at Chelsea, City could find themselves in second place by the time they play as champions Manchester United would go top with a win at Queens Park Rangers earlier in the day.

The Stamford Bridge defeat followed City's group-stage exit from the Champions League and while Arsenal learned Friday that they will face AC Milan next in Europe's elite club competition, City will discover their opponents in the second-tier Europa League later in the day.

It is a reminder that while Arsenal started the season slowly, the fifth-placed side will be a force to be reckoned with at the Etihad stadium, particularly with their in-form striker Robin van Persie.

Van Persie is an incredible player, he is like (Sergio)Aguero and (Edin) Dzeko and Mario, he scores one goal in every game. In this moment he is very good, like Arsenal, in this moment they are playing very well, Mancini said.

We should work hard when you play against a top team and a top striker.

(Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email: sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)