Balotelli facing four-match ban after FA ‘violent conduct’ charge
Mario Balotelli could be sidelined from Manchester City's title challenge until March after being charged with violent conduct by the English Football Association following an alleged stamp on the head of Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker.
Balotelli, accused of "kicking Parker in the head" by Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp following City's 3-2 victory over their title rivals, has until 6.0 tomorrow to respond to the charge.
An FA statement said: "The FA has today charged Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli with violent conduct following an incident in his side's home game against Tottenham Hotspur.
"Balotelli was involved in an incident with Tottenham's Scott Parker during Manchester City's 3-2 victory at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, January 22, 2012. Balotelli has until 6.0 on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 to respond to the charge."
Joleon Lescott, who appeared to strike Spurs defender Younes Kaboul with an elbow during the same game, has escaped censure by the FA after referee Howard Webb confirmed that he would not have dismissed the England defender had he seen the incident at the time.
Webb's admission, however, that he would have issued a red card to Balotelli had he witnessed the foul on Parker led to the Italian forward being charged by the FA last night.
The failure of World Cup final referee Webb to deal with the incident at the time enabled the FA's disciplinary unit to investigate further and the view of the panel was that the 21-year-old should be charged with violent conduct.
Having already served a suspension this season following a sending-off against Liverpool at Anfield in October, Balotelli will receive an additional game on a three-match ban -- taking it to four games -- if ultimately found guilty of the offence.
City manager Roberto Mancini will be left to decide whether the club should lodge an appeal against the charge.
But Mancini faces a dilemma over the ramifications of any appeal due to the possibility of a further game being applied to any suspension, potentially leaving Balotelli with a five-match ban, if an FA commission views such a move as 'frivolous.'
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was given an extended ban due to a frivolous appeal after fighting a charge of violent conduct for hitting out at Hull City's Craig Fagan in January 2010.
On that occasion, United appealed the charge in order to delay Ferdinand's suspension so that the defender could play in the Carling Cup semi-final second-leg against City at Old Trafford.
Should City appeal against Balotelli's charge, the former Inter Milan striker would be free to face Liverpool at Anfield in tomorrow's Carling Cup semi-final second leg, with City trailing 1-0 from the first leg.
However, City would then be faced with Balotelli being suspended from domestic duty until the league game against Bolton at the Etihad Stadium on March 3 -- therefore ruling him out of the Carling Cup final if City get there -- should the FA reject any appeal.
Mancini and his assistant David Platt are set to review the club's options today, however. As of last night, City officials were stressing that it was too early to judge the merits of an appeal and that a considered assessment would be reached prior to tomorrow's deadline.
As a result of the incident with Parker, which was widely replayed on television on Monday, Greater Manchester Police received two complaints from the public about Balotelli's actions, neither of which will be acted upon.
While City face a decision on Balotelli, there was relief at the Etihad last night following the FA's decision not to charge Lescott.
Having lost captain Vincent Kompany to a four-match ban following a failed appeal against a red card received against United earlier this month, the prospect of losing Lescott to suspension would have further hit the club's defensive options.
But although it is understood that Webb would have booked the former Everton centre-half for the incident with Kaboul, had he seen it clearly, the referee did not consider that the foul was worthy of a red card.
Meanwhile, the FA are set to decide today whether to charge Stoke's Peter Crouch following an incident during Saturday's defeat against West Brom. (© Daily Telegraph, London)