Mario Balotelli latest: Roberto Mancini has "endless" patience with striker

My patience with Balotelli is endless! Mancini admits he has soft spot for Mario

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 21 September 2012

Roberto Mancini insists his patience with volatile Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli is 'endless'.

Balotelli is expected to return to the squad for Sunday's visit of Arsenal after he was left out for the Champions League defeat at Real Madrid in midweek.

When City last met the Gunners in April a 1-0 defeat looked to have killed off their title hopes, Balotelli was sent off on 90 minutes and made a studs-up challenge on Alex Song that was missed by referee Martin Atkinson.

The trip: Mario Balotelli jokes about with James Milner

The trip: Mario Balotelli jokes about with James Milner

The push: Balotelli is pushed by Milner

The push: Balotelli is pushed by Milner

The make up: Balotelli hugs Millner

The make up: Balotelli hugs Millner

‘I thought it would be a six-game ban
after that game,’ admitted Mancini. ‘Three for the red card and three
for what he did to Song.’

Asked if he had been ready to wash his hands of the player, a smiling Mancini replied: ‘My patience with him is endless.’

What row Roberto Mancini insists he is absolutely fine with Balotelli

What row Roberto Mancini insists he is absolutely fine with Balotelli

Ready to go: Balotelli trains ahead of Sunday's game with Arsenal

Ready to go: Balotelli trains ahead of Sunday's game with Arsenal

No rift: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini claims there are no issues with him and Balotelli

No rift: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini claims there are no issues with him and Balotelli

Mancini confirmed the 22-year-old was upset over his omission in Madrid.

He said: ‘He was upset. It’s normal that a player who can’t play in the Bernabeu is unhappy.

Sometimes an important player like Mario or James Milner must sit in the stands.

‘It’s important the players understand this.’

It was believed that Mancini is fed
up with Balotelli's wild ways – including his smoking habit – and was
fast losing patience with the maverick 22-year-old, but Mancini played
down talk of a rift.

'There has been no argument, and no row. Absolutely not,' he said.

'Mario went in the stand only because
we started to play with Carlos Tevez in attack and we couldn't have
three strikers on the bench.'

Balotelli partied until the early
hours after Saturday's 1-1 draw at Stoke. He was pictured with boxer
Amir Khan on a night out at Circle Club in Manchester.

Mancini was said to be angry as he wanted the forward to rest ahead of their opening European match against the Spanish giants.

As a punishment, Balotelli was
ordered to travel to the Bernabeu despite reportedly being told he
wouldn't play a part before stepping on the plane.

Another growing concern for Mancini is Balotelli's smoking habit – infuriating for a club that pay him over 100,000 per week.

Bad habit: Balotelli has regularly been spotted smoking away from training and matches

Bad habit: Balotelli has regularly been spotted smoking away from training and matches

Good example: Balotelli has also been pictured smoking in his Man City gear

Good example: Balotelli has also been pictured smoking in his Man City gear

Partying: Balotelli (right) was pictured with Amir Khan at the Circle Club on Saturday

Partying: Balotelli (right) was pictured with Amir Khan at the Circle Club on Saturday