Balotelli backed to beat racist taunts in Turin

MONACO - Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli will come face to face again with the Juventus fans who used to racially abuse him after the two clubs were paired in the same Europa League group on Friday.

Juve were forced to play a game behind closed doors in May 2009 after fans sang "a black Italian does not exist" at Balotelli during a match with his previous club Inter Milan at Turin's Stadio Olimpico.

Supporters of the Turin club have sporadically used the chant in other matches, leading to another partial ground closure, and have also sung "if you jump up and down Balotelli will die".

Brian Marwood, Manchester City's head of football administration, told reporters after the draw in Monaco: "Mario, like all of our players, I'm sure, will be relishing the opportunity.

"He's a young man with an incredibly bright future ahead of him and we will give him every support and help that he needs.

"We will leave it to the authorities to deal with anything that happens but we are not anticipating any issue."

Balotelli, a 20-year-old of Ghanaian descent, made his debut for Italy in this month's friendly defeat to Ivory Coast in London.

One of the reasons he decided to leave European champions Inter and sign for former coach Roberto Mancini at City was to escape the abuse he received in Italy, where he was also criticised for his behaviour on and off the field.

Juve chief executive Jean Claude Blanc hoped his fans had learnt their lesson ahead of the Turin game on December 16.

"I think a new season is a chance to show new behavior, and to show also at a European level that the Italian supporters, or more particularly those of Juve, have understood the messages and the sanctions that were handed out," he told reporters.

"Supporting your team is to support your team, and not to make remarks of a racist nature toward other players. We will be extremely demanding and intransigent about this."

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told reporters in Monaco: "We have a zero tolerance approach to racism, and we are not afraid to come down hard if there are any incidents at any UEFA matches which are reported to us."

Austria's FC Salzburg and Poland's Lech Poznan are also in Group A, which starts on September 16.

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