Roma’s slim chances at a Serie A title were hampered further as Mattia Destro was given a three-match ban and defender Mehdi Benatia was ruled out for a month with a muscle tear.
Destro was sanctioned by the league for a punch on fellow Italian international Davide Astori. He was not punished by the referee in the match but the league handed down the punishment following the match.
A yellow card for a later incident also means Destro will miss one more match for caution accumulation, meaning he will be out for the next four Roma league games.
“Destro is not a violent player,” Roma manager Rudi Garcia told Italian media ahead of this week’s match with Atalanta. “Football is a contact sport and these actions take place. It’s true that he hit his opponent in the face but the referee saw everything.”
The club is appealing his suspension, arguing that the referee had seen the incident and decided not to take action. If that is the case, the league is not allowed to hand down a ban and change punishment for an incident the referee judged to be fair.
“In such cases, the rules clearly state that if the official saw the action there is no need for TV evidence to be used to determine the punishment,” Garcia said. “We are hopeful that his ban will be reduced.”
Thanks to the yellow card suspension, Destro will miss the Atalanta match this weekend for sure, and the Serie A panel will have time to review the club’s appeal.
In what would be a serious shame, Destro could now be overlooked for the Italian World Cup squad. Manager Cesare Prandelli is known for holding players to a high standard both on and off the pitch, and Destro was already just barely working himself into the picture with good form.
Benatia will also be out a similar timeframe and could miss the rest of the year after the central defender tore a muscle in his left thigh.
The 26-year-old Moroccan has been a warrior for Roma this season, playing 2,664 of Roma’s 2,880 minutes thus far and was at the forefront of their blistering start to the Serie A season. He played the full 900 minutes during their 10-game win streak to start the year in which the club conceded just a single goal. Roma have allowed a Serie A-low 18 goals this year.
It’s thanks to this amazing form that has attracted interest from Manchester United as they look to replace Nemanja Vidic at the back.
Roma sit eight points back of Serie A leaders Juventus with six matches remaining.