Police on 'high alert' for Serbia fans in Europa League
LONDON (AP) -- With the tainted reputation of Serbian football fans further tarnished by recent allegations of racism, the spotlight will be on the behavior of Partizan Belgrade supporters during Thursday's potentially volatile Europa League match at Inter Milan.
Police are on "high alert'' for the first visit of fans from Serbia to Italy since an international match between the two teams in Genoa in October 2010 was abandoned due to crowd violence by away supporters.
"We know that it's a very high-risk match,'' Milan police chief Pietro Ostuni said. "We've been in close contact with Serbian police and their experts in fan violence.''
Serbian football made the headlines for the wrong reasons last week, too, when the country's football association was charged with misconduct over alleged racial abuse by its fans toward England players in an under-21 match.
Partizan, which is widely known for having some of the most violent followers in Europe, is desperate for a victory at the San Siro to kickstart its campaign heading into the third round of pool-stage games in the continent's second-tier club competition.
The team is bottom of a Group H that is jointly led on four points by Rubin Kazan and Inter, which has rediscovered its form this season and is third in the Serie A standings.
Other big matches on Thursday see Liverpool host Samuel Eto'o's Anzhi Makhachkala in a tight-looking Group A, while last season's runner-up Athletic Bilbao travel to Lyon needing a win to climb off the bottom of Group I.
Defending champion Atletico Madrid looks for a third straight win in Group B when the Spanish team hosts Academica of Portugal.
The last time Serbian fans came to a match in Italy, they fought running battles with police outside the stadium - leading to more than a dozen injuries - and threw flares onto the pitch.
Kick-off was delayed and then the match was called off after only six minutes, with Italy eventually awarded a 3-0 win. Ivan Bogdanov, the ring leader of the violence, was taken into custody and eventually given a prison sentence for inspiring a riot.
Some 4,000 Serbs are expected at the San Siro, with Partizan having issued a notice on its website urging fans to behave.
"We won't tolerate episodes of violence,'' Ostuni said. "Although it's important not to generalize, most of the Serbian fans coming are normal supporters.''
Inter, which beat Neftchi 3-1 last time out, is again unlikely to be without Wesley Sneijder as the Netherlands playmaker works his way back from a leg-muscle injury.
Italy striker Antonio Cassano is in splendid form with five goals in the opening eight Serie A matches, and Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio are also making an impact in attack.
Liverpool will attempt to bounce back from a 3-2 loss to Udinese last month when the five-time European champions host big-spending Anzhi, whose attack is spearheaded by Eto'o. The former Barcelona and Inter striker scored both goals in the 2-0 win at home to Young Boys on matchday two that put the Russian team top of the group.
Only one point separates Anzhi, Udinese and third-place Liverpool in arguably the toughest of the 12 groups.
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