By DAN KARELL
Just when it looked like he was turning a corner, immaturity has brought Mario Balotelli back to earth.
Already set to serve a one-match suspension due to yellow card accumulation, Serie A officials tacked on an additional two-match ban due to Balotelli’s actions following the 2-2 draw between his AC Milan club and Fiorentina last Sunday.
In a statement released by the Italian governing body of Serie A, the Italy forward berated and insulted a linesman after the final whistle blew. The suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time for Milan as they prepare to face Napoli and Juventus on successive weekends, starting this Sunday.
The 22-year-old has been in terrific form for Milan since moving back to Italy in January, scoring ten goals in nine games for club and country. AC Milan has already announced that they will appeal the suspension.
Here are some more stories to get your Wednesday started:
MESSI INCLUDED IN BARCELONA SQUAD
Though it’s a game-time decision whether Lionel Messi will start for Barcelona, he’ll at the least be on the bench for Wednesday’s important second-leg Champions League match with Paris Saint-Germain.
Manager Tito Vilanova named the Argentine to the squad, just a week after he was forced off at halftime due to a hamstring problem. Messi didn’t play in last Saturday’s 5-0 drubbing of Mallorca, but he likely won’t be risked in the Champions League unless necessary. Barcelona tied PSG 2-2 in the Parc des Princes last Tuesday, with a win or a 1-1 draw or less being enough to send the Catalonia-based club to the semifinals.
Cesc Fabregas will likely start in Messi’s forward leading role as a false No. 9 against PSG. Fabregas scored a hat-trick in the win over Mallorca, giving him plenty of confidence ahead of Wednesday’s match.
UEFA PROPOSE PUNISHMENTS FOR RACISM
The European football governing body might just be catching up with the times.
On Tuesday, UEFA announced that they are proposing measures to curtail racism in the sport, including a minimum ten-match ban for players who are found guilty. General secretary Gianni Infantino also announced that there would be harsher penalties on clubs where fans are found guilty of racism. Instead of only fines, clubs would also have to deal with either partial or full stadium closures.
UEFA has taken a lot of criticism for it’s handing of racist incidents, especially in the past year, with relatively small fines handed out to repeat offenders in Serbia and Italy. Under the proposed new rules, clubs and players might think twice about their actions.
VELEZ AND EMELEC QUALIFY FOR KNOCKOUT STAGE
As of Wednesday morning, Group Four in the 2013 Copa Libertadores Group Stage is closed, with Velez Sarsfield of Argentina and Emelec of Ecuador moving on to the knockout round for the second straight year. .
The two sides played one another on Tuesday night with the match finishing in a scoreless draw, enough to ensure qualification for both of them. Uruguayan club Peñarol defeated Deportes Iquique of Chile 3-0, but they needed an Emelec loss to continue in the tournament.
Around the continent, Santa Fe defeated Deportes Tolima 2-1 to ensure a place in the knockout round in a match between two Colombian sides. Christian Borja scored two second half to complete the comeback for Santa Fe after going down a goal to Tolima in the first half.
Tigre of Argentina shocked Chilean club Sporting Cristal with a 3-1 victory in Buenos Aires on Tuesday night, giving the home side a chance to move on to the next round.
Málaga CF owner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani said racism was to blame for the way his side went out of the Champions League on Tuesday night, losing 3-2 to Borussia Dortmund. (REPORT)
Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano has been admitted to a hospital in Spain, though he is in good condition. (REPORT)
Arsenal winger Andrei Arshavin is likely to retire from soccer at season’s end. (REPORT)
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill had knee surgery on March 30 to deal with an injury he had suffered two weeks earlier. (REPORT)
Atletico Madrid forward Radamel Falcao Garcia is being heavily linked with a move to Manchester United (REPORT)
What do you make of these reports? What do you think of Balotelli’s post-match antics? Do you see Messi playing against PSG? Do you think UEFA’s proposed measures are enough?
Share your thoughts below.