Mario Balotelli can handle hostile Naples, says Roberto Mancini

• Manchester City manager puts faith in volatile striker
• City players at training given taste of what to expect

Roberto Mancini goes into the match that could determine whether Manchester City progress to the Champions League knockout stages insisting his players have nothing to fear from the hostile atmosphere for which Napoli's Stadio San Paolo is famed and backing Mario Balotelli to come through whatever reception awaits him on his return to Italy.

After taking only one point from their opening two games, City will qualify for the next stage with a game to spare if they become the first team to beat Napoli at their own ground in a European tie since 1994. Mancini knows from experience how intimidating San Paolo can be for visiting teams but the City manager is also aware of overplaying the effect of the Neapolitan crowd. "Look at me," he said. "I played there for 13 years and I'm still alive and here."

His squad had their first taste of what to expect from a group of Napoli supporters at the airport as the team set off to train in the stadium. "Hostile is not the word," Micah Richards posted on Twitter. Mancini, however, believes his players should have the nerve to cope with the atmosphere. "The Napoli fans are very passionate but these are the kind of matches the players should want to play. If we play our football and don't think about all the other issues, I don't think it will affect us."

Mancini also expressed his confidence in Balotelli to cope if, as the club fear, he faces some of the racial abuse that accompanied him throughout Serie A when he was a player for Internazionale. "He has played in Naples maybe 10 times already in his career. "I won't be thinking about the crowd reaction when I decide the team. He is making real progress and I think the fans in Italy know and understand now that Mario can be an important player for the national team."

City's two victories against Villarreal have moved them ahead of Napoli in Group A. "If we win, it is finished," Mancini said. "If not, it will go to the last game and we know that it will very difficult for us because Bayern Munich are a top team and even if they are already through they will make sure to play a good game.

"We know Napoli can be dangerous and put us under a lot of pressure. They are a strong team and, playing at night, in their own stadium, they normally beat everyone. So it will be a hard game. But we also know we can do everything if we play well."

The club have prepared for this tie by sending a letter to each of the 900 City supporters who have travelled to Italy, passing on safety advice about the areas of Naples to avoid and recommending that they do not wear club colours. Balotelli was scheduled to take part in the official Uefa press conference alongside Mancini but the club decided to pull him out rather than risk the player saying something that might inflame tensions.

Sergio Agüero, a more popular figure in Naples given that his father-in-law is Diego Maradona, stood in while Mancini talked of his hope that the game could take place without the knife-related incidents that accompanied Liverpool's visit to Naples last season and led to six Bayern Munich fans being stabbed before their tie here last month.

"I don't think it will be a big problem. This kind of thing can happen in every stadium in every city, everywhere. But I'm sure our fans will be able to support the team and see the city. I think Naples is beautiful. Our supporters have the opportunity to see a beautiful match and a beautiful city."

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