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.
The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.
[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]
Three moments that mattered
16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.
33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.
43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.
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Man of the match: Luke Mulholland
Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)
Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.
[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]
United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.
All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]
Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.
You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.
[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.
[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.
The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.
Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.