x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Italy manager plays down Balotelli fight

Manchester City player's reported fall-out with Cesare Prandelli, the Azzurri coach, "are small things that happen in every team". says Gigi Riva.

Gigi Riva, the Italy team manager, has brushed aside reports that Mario Balotelli, the Manchester City forward, has fallen out with Cesare Prandelli, the Azzurri coach, ahead of Tuesday night's Group C qualifier against Slovenia in Florence.

Prandelli was reportedly unimpressed by Balotelli's approach during his warm-up for Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier against the Faroe Islands, where Italy laboured to a 1-0 win courtesy of an Antonio Cassano goal to put them eight points clear, on 19, at the top of the group, and the fact the player took his iPad with him as he watched the match from the bench.

"Balotelli's situation is nothing to worry about," Riva said of the forward, who came on for the final six minutes. "These are small things that happen in every team.

"Let's not create a problem where there is none."

Earlier this year, the former Inter Milan striker was dropped from the squad for two qualifiers after breaking Prandelli's "code of conduct" while playing for his club.

Prandelli is expected to make several changes to his starting XI with Claudio Marchisio and Mattia Cassani set to replace Thiago Motta and Christian Maggio. Prandelli said he was also counting on the support of the Florence fans on Tuesday night following his five-year stint in charge of Fiorentina before taking over the national team post last year.

Matja Kek, the Slovenia coach, has all of his players available for the match. His side are currently second in the group, level on points with Serbia, but having played a game more. Italy will book a place in next year's finals, in Ukraine and Poland, if they beat Slovenia or if Serbia, who are third in the pool, fail to come out triumphant against the Faroe Islands on Tuesday night.