Manchester City's faltering title bid has taken another hit after it was claimed Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure were involved in a dressing room confrontation.
City drew 3-3 at home to Sunderland to leave them two points adrift of table-toppers United, who face Blackburn this evening.
But the nomadic Balotelli again claimed the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Daily Telegraph report he is understood to have been involved in a row with Toure before being ushered away by the midfielder’s brother Kolo.
The Ivorian and the Italian had a confrontation in the Liberty Stadium tunnel at half-time of the Citizens' 1-0 loss to Swansea last month, while Balotelli has been involved in a number of training ground scuffles.
He has been snapped in physical confrontations with Jerome Boateng, Vincent Kompany and Micah Richards at the club's Carrington complex, while only last week he was told to train away from the squad by manager Roberto Mancini for a perceived lack of effort.
During the Sunderland match Balotelli was irate Aleksander Kolarov had decided to take a free-kick at 1-3 down and had to be restrained by captain Vincent Kompany. He scored twice in the Citizens' draw, but the crowd booed his behaviour over his petulance.
Mancini confessed after the game he wanted to substitute the striker just five minutes into the game and even shook his head after the 21-year-old reduced the arrears to 2-3.
The Sunday Times and, today, The Times have both reported he will be offered to clubs in the summer, as his coach grows tired of his antics and admitted on Friday he doesn't trust a player he schooled at Internazionale.
Balotelli himself told Noel Gallagher during a Football Focus interview he was only at Eastlands because Mancini was, but now even his closest mentor appears to have lost patience.
By the time City play Arsenal at four o'clock on Sunday, they could be eight points behind their rivals.
United face QPR at 13:30 at Old Trafford on the same day, following tonight's visit to Ewood Park. And the maximum potential deficit has been deemed insurmountable by Mancini.
“If we go eight points behind, then it is finished," he said. “This is normal. But United will draw at Blackburn. Do you want to bet with me? This is my opinion.
"We have 71 points with seven games left and I think we should [continue] to believe in ourselves at this moment because we will have time for the other things."