'My heart is not strong enough for these late goals!' – Mancini jokes after last-gasp Manchester City win

Roberto Mancini has joked that Manchester City’s knack of scoring late goals is having a negative impact on his health.

Gareth Barry struck deep into injury time to overcome a resilient Reading side and keep up pace with league leaders Manchester United.

City famously scored twice in stoppage time against QPR to clinch a dramatic maiden Premier League crown at the end of last season, and Mancini admitted he would rather his side were to seal victories earlier in the game.

He told reporters: “It’s more important to score early on in games – my heart is not strong [enough] for these late goals!

“I think that we deserved to win but when you are in the last two or three minutes it can be difficult if you don’t score in the first half when you have lots of chances.

“You have to be strong because they defended really well with lots of players behind the ball and we didn’t find the space to play. In the end I’m happy with this victory.”

Just three days after Mario Balotelli accepted a two-week salary fine from the club after receiving nine yellow cards, three red cards and a four-game ban for stamping on Scott Parker last season, the striker was absent from Saturday’s matchday squad.

However, Mancini assured that the Italian’s no-show was due to illness.

“Mario is ill. He came to the training ground yesterday because he wants to play but he can’t.”

The headline from the pre-match team news was the inclusion of 18-year-old debutant Karim Rekik following the absence of left-backs Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov, and Mancini hailed the defender’s display in a position that does not come naturally to him.

“Karim played well, he’s very young only 18 but he has good quality – he played very well,” Roberto declared.

“He’s a central defender but he can play left-back – we are very happy with him.”

Berlusconi rules out Drogba & Balotelli bids

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has ruled out the possibility of Mario Balotelli or Didier Drogba arriving at San Siro this January.

The Italian giants have received offers from Brazil for both Alexandre Pato and Robinho, and are on the lookout for replacements should the duo head back to their South American homeland.

“I can assure you that Balotelli will not arrive,” the former Italian Prime Minister told Sky Sport Italia.

“Drogba is certainly a player we really like, but I think at [his potential] cost only the Chinese and Russian clubs can afford him.”

And Berlusconi, who turned 76 in September, remained tight-lipped on his club’s transfer targets, adding coyly: “Who will arrive? I cannot say…”

Balotelli has been promised another chance at Manchester City this week by manager Roberto Mancini, after the striker backed down from an argument with the English champions over a fine for poor behaviour.

Meanwhile, Drogba – who moved to Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua from Chelsea this summer – is reportedly unhappy with life in Asia and looking for a move back to Europe.

Mancini: Balotelli must earn another chance at Manchester City

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists Mario Balotelli must earn another chance to show he still has a future at the club.

Balotelli’s form has been criticised by his manager this season, and he was set to appeal to a Premier League tribunal after City slapped a £340,000 fine on him for missing 11 of their league matches last term through suspension.

But he eventually backed down and agreed to forego two-weeks’ wages, with a club statement indicating he paid up partly out of respect for his manager.

Mancini says he has forgiven Balotelli for the row, but is adamant the 22-year-old must begin to “respect himself” if he is to fulfil his potential and establish himself as a key figure for City in the long term.

“I am his manager, like other players, and if he deserves to have other chances he will have them,” he told reporters.

“This is an old situation and it is normal when someone does a mistake he should take his responsibilities and Mario did this. It’s normal.

“He [should] respect himself, not me, because it’s important for him to respect himself, very important.”

Mancini also confirmed Balotelli will miss the home tie with Premier League strugglers Reading on Saturday after suffering a virus that has kept him out of training.

“This weekend Mario, unfortunately, is ill,” he added. “He came this morning but he can’t do anything.”

The reigning league champions go into the clash with the Royals six points behind rivals Manchester United, who are at the top of the table and face an away trip to Swansea.

Window Shopping: Balotelli set to leave Manchester City as FFP limits spending

With January looming, one club that many expect to be in the headlines is Manchester City.

The Premier League champions never seem too far away from making a signing, but this window could be different, with the sprees of the past set to be curbed in light of the imminent Financial Fair Play rulings that will start to take effect.

Departures from the squad could be likely, though, and Mario Balotelli’s time in England could finally be up.

Roberto Mancini has given his compatriot plenty of chances but AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are poised to swoop for the striker, if he is up for sale.

Our panel also discuss City’s chances of success after a second season of failure in the Champions League.

Balotelli accepts two-week Manchester City fine

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has accepted a two-week fine after breaching the club’s discipline rules.

The 22-year-old received nine yellow cards and three red cards – and a four-game ban for stamping on Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker – throughout the 2011-12 season, for which the Premier League champions saw fit to discipline the player.

Balotelli took the punishment to a tribunal after refuting the severity, but the club has no confirmed that the striker has withdrawn the external action and accepted the fine “as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club”.

A statement from Manchester City read: “After amicable talks between the parties, as a sign of respect for Roberto Mancini, the supporters and the club, Mario Balotelli has chosen to accept a two-week fine levied upon him by the club and withdraw his disciplinary appeal, which was due to be heard by a Premier League panel [on Wednesday].

“Mario remains available for selection for all forthcoming fixtures.”

Balotelli has made 11 league appearances for City so far this campaign, scoring just one goal, and Mancini spoke earlier on Wednesday about the need for more committment from the striker in training.