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"Passionate welcome" awaits Balotelli

Former Inter Milan defender Marco Materazzi believes Inter striker Mario Balotelli can expect a "passionate welcome" when he returns in the colours of cross-town rival AC Milan for Sunday's Milan derby.

Balotelli returned to his homeland in the January transfer window after giving up on his Premier League career with Manchester City.

But the 22-year-old Italian international did not return to Inter, where he rose through the youth ranks beforehelping the club to Serie A and Champions League success, but to the red-and-black of the Rossoneri.

And Materazzi hinted that decision will not be forgotten by the Inter faithful, despite Balotelli's former contributions.

"I will always thank him because he took us to trophies, and I expect a passionate welcome for him," Materazzi told La Repubblica. "As long as it doesn't get dragged into racism, everything is fair.

"Milan was his dream, so that he's there now is really no surprise."

Inter trail their neighbours by the solitary point this season, but with Balotelli, who has already scored four early goals since his return to Italy, Materazzi believes Milan should be considered favourites heading into the derby.

But despite the Italian World Cup admitting the Inter squad was at its weakest, Materazzi denied his former club would easily give up the fight against its fiercest rivals.

"Milan are the favourites with Balotelli, but that is fine for us Inter fans," he said. "He is ruthless in front of goal. I have never seen such a talented played at 17.

"When you go without Walter Samuel and Diego Milito, the decline is inevitable. Don't give Inter up for dead though, as they have nine lives."


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