x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

City face Italian giants Juventus

Roberto Mancini's side face a glamorous clash with Italian giants Juventus in the Europa League group stage.

Manchester City will face two-time European Cup winners Juventus in the group stage of the Europa League. The two clubs were drawn together in Group A along with Austrian side Salzburg and Polish team Lech Poznan. Among City's high-profile signings in the off-season was Mario Balotelli, the Italy striker, who joined from Inter Milan. Balotelli will have unhappy memories of playing Juve after being the victim of racial taunts from the club's fans over the past two seasons. Last season, the Italian league banned a section of Juventus fans for chanting discriminatory slogans about Balotelli during an Coppa Italia game against Napoli - despite appeals to stop over the public address system. Two seasons ago, Juve were ordered to play a home game behind closed doors for another incident of racism aimed at Balotelli, who is of Ghanaian descent. "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," said Jean-Claude Blanc, the Juve general manager. "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." City booked their place in the group phase with a 3-0 aggregate win over Romanian side Timisoara on Thursday night. They can now look forward to taking on Juve, twice European champions and three times victors in this competition in its former guise as the Uefa Cup.

The five-times European champions Liverpool have been drawn against 1986 European champions Steaua Bucharest in Group K, along with 1989 Uefa Cup winners Napoli and FC Utrecht, who knocked out Celtic in the play-offs last night. The Europa League holders Atletico Madrid, who defeated Fulham in the final when the London club were coached by new Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson, will take on Bayer Leverkusen, Norwegian champions Rosenborg and Greek side Aris. Zenit St Petersburg, the 2008 Uefa Cup winners, are in Group G alongside Anderlecht - who won the Uefa Cup in 1983 - plus AEK Athens and Hajduk Split of Croatia. Sevilla, who won back-to-back Uefa Cup crowns in 2006 and 2007 but missed out on this season's Champions League after losing a play-off to Braga, are in the same group as Paris St Germain, 1997 European champions Borussia Dortmund and Ukrainian side Karpaty Lviv. PSV Eindhoven, who were champions of Europe in 1988, have been drawn into Group I alongside Italian side Sampdoria, Metalist Kharkiv of Ukraine and Hungarian outfit Debrecen. Swiss side Young Boys, knocked out of the Champions League by Tottenham in midweek, were drawn last into Group H alongside Stuttgart, Getafe and Motherwell's conquerors Odense. Group C features Sporting Lisbon, Lille, Levski Sofia and Gent while Villarreal, who took the place of Real Mallorca after the Spanish islanders were kicked out of the competition on financial grounds, will take on Club Brugge of Belgium, Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb and PAOK Salonika of Greece in Group D. AZ Alkmaar, losing Uefa Cup finalists in 1981, were first out of the hat in Group E and will take on Dynamo Kiev, BATE Borisov of Belarus and Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol. The Uefa Cup winners of 2005, CSKA Moscow, face Italian side Palermo, Sparta Prague and Lausanne in Group F while 2003 champions Porto are up against Besiktas, CSKA Sofia and Rapid Vienna, who knocked out Aston Villa last night. * Agencies