Mario Balotelli avoids season-ending suspension

MARIO Balotelli will be missing from the Manchester City side to face West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium tonight as he begins a three-game suspension – but the controversial striker has avoided the prospect of a further six-game ban for his knee-high studs-up tackle on Arsenal’s Alex Song on Sunday.

Balotelli was sent off during the 1-0 defeat at the Emirates after picking up two yellow cards for fouls unrelated to the Song incident, but could have faced extra three-game bans for violent conduct and what would have been his fourth red card of the season.

However, referee Martin Atkinson, who took no action during the game, reported that the incident had been seen by at least one of the four match officials – which rules out retrospective action by the Football Association.

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An FA statement read: “Where at least one of the officials has seen the coming together of players retrospective action is not taken, regardless of whether they have seen the full extent of the challenge. Retrospective action can only be taken in scenarios where none of the match officials saw the players coming together.

“The normal scenarios in which retrospective action is taken are for ‘off-the-ball’ incidents.”

Balotelli could therefore be available for City’s final three games of the season, although those matches look all but certain to prove academic in terms of the title race with Roberto Mancini’s men languishing eight points behind Manchester United, who will be looking to at least maintain that healthy advantage when they travel to face relegation-threatened Wigan this evening.

However, manager Sir Alex Ferguson looks likely to rest veterans Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand this evening as United target a ninth straight Premier League victory.

A lively tussle looks in store at Loftus Road where QPR host Swansea looking for a win that would boost their hopes of staying in the top flight.

However, the visitors are on their worst run of the season after losing three successive games, and while their earlier season form has hoisted them well clear of the relegation zone, manager Brendan Rogers – who has been linked with a move to Tottenham – will be eager to see them get back to winning ways.

Six points adrift at the foot of the table, Wolves already look doomed and things won’t get any easier for them this evening as they host an Arsenal side who are looking to further tighten their grip on the Premier League’s third and final automatic Champions League spot.