Italy’s Mario Balotelli ruled out of Spain match with a thigh injury

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The Confederations Cup semi-final match-up between Spain and Italy just lost more of its gloss as Mario Balotelli has been ruled out of the clash with a thigh problem.

The Italian Football Federation made the announcement following a series of medical tests on Balotelli’s left quadriceps following Italy’s 4-2 loss to Brazil on Saturday.

The federation stopped short of saying that Super Mario was done for the tournament, claiming they would continue to monitor his status in the hope that he could return for the Azzurri’s next match – either the final or the third-place game. If Italy are defeated by Spain on Thursday, one can expect that Balotelli will not be risked in a third place match.

Balotelli has enjoyed a strong showing in the World Cup warm-up tournament, powering home the match-winner against Mexico, scoring a penalty in the 4-3 win over Japan and setting up Emanuel Giaccherini’s goal in the 4-2 loss to Brazil.

Balotelli’s injury adds to Italy’s injury woes as Ignazio Abate was sent home after separating his shoulder and midfielder Ricardo Montolivo is out after suffering a head injury against Brazil. Andrea Pirlo, who was sidelined from the Brazil match with a muscle problem, faces a late fitness test to see if he’ll be ready for the Spain clash.

With Balo out, expect Cesar Prandelli to switch from a 4-3-2-1 to a 3-5-2. Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will play as the back three and Christian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini will line up as wing-backs while Bologna’s Alberto Gilardino and AC Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy are the likely candidates to lead the front line.

Italy and Spain kickoff this Thursday at 2:30pm EST on ESPN.

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

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Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.