Briefs

Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 00:00

A round-up of today's other stories in brief

Messi injury just bruising but not certain he will be fit for Sunday

Lionel Messi says he is feeling fine despite bruising his left knee in Wednesday’s Champions League game against Benfica but is unsure whether he will be fit for Sunday’s La Liga match at Real Betis.

The World Player of the Year collapsed to the turf after colliding with Benfica goalkeeper Artur late in the Group G clash at the Nou Camp, which ended 0-0, and was taken off on a stretcher in obvious pain.

A scan ruled out anything more serious than bruising and Messi worked out in the gym yesterday.

“When I felt the blow I thought the worst because of the pain, that I might be out for many months,” said the 25-year-old who came on as a substitute for the final half hour with Barca already through to the last 16 as group winners.

“After the tests, and having ruled out a serious injury, I was much more relaxed,” he said. “I am feeling good, fortunately it was only a blow and I am much better.”

Messi said he was not obsessed with breaking the record for the most goals in a calendar year of 85 set by Gerd Muller in 1972.

Messi has 84 for club and country in 2012, including 21 goals in 14 La Liga matches.

Mikel gets three-match ban over confronting referee Clattenburg

Midfielder John Obi Mikel has been handed a three-game ban following Chelsea's stormy Premier League match against Manchester United on October 28th.

Mikel had already admitted a charge that he confronted referee Mark Clattenburg in his changing room after the game before yesterday's personal hearing.

Yesterday's decision by the Independent Regulatory Commission in Britain revealed the sanction, which included a €75,000 fine, would have been "significantly longer" but for the fact Mikel had believed he had been racially abused by Clattenburg.

The suspension will take effect immediately and rule Mikel out of domestic duty until St Stephen's Day.

Mikel, who signed a new five-year deal yesterday, will miss the weekend's trip to Sunderland but will be available when Chelsea jet out for the Club World Cup in Japan next week.

His availability when Chelsea return from the Far East could be limited though, with the midfielder due to meet up with Nigeria early in the new year for the African Nations Cup, which begins on January 19th.

New boss Rafael Benitez appeared to begin preparations for his absence on Wednesday night when he employed David Luiz in midfield at stages of the 6-1 Champions League win over FC Nordsjaelland.

Benitez admitted he was prepared to use Luiz further up the pitch and provide support for holding midfielders Ramires and Romeu.

Tournament's future in balance as sponsors end eight-year association

The future of the All-Ireland club tournament is in jeopardy for 2014 unless the FAI and IFA can find a new sponsor after Setanta Sports last night confirmed they are pulling out as main backers after eight seasons next year.

Setanta Sports are, however, amenable to continuing to televise the competition, which has a total prize fund this year of €175,000, should a new sponsor be found.

"It's not a surprise, we knew it was coming," said Milo Corcoran, chairman of the Setanta Sports Cup organising committee at the 2013 draw in Belfast last night. "We've our commercial departments working on trying to get someone, or maybe more than one, in to replace them."

Finding a sponsor in the current economic climate looks an unenviable task, Corcoran agreed.

All four League of Ireland clubs in the first round were drawn at home in the first legs last night. The competition begins on February 11th, and will again be played as a straight knock-out competition over two legs.

Meanwhile, Cobh Ramblers look increasingly likely to return to the Airtricity League next season, according to league director Fran Gavin. Having been relegated from the Premier Division at the end of the 2008 season, the Cork club failed to gain a First Division licence and have been absent since.

SPORTS CUP - First round draw: Cork City v Cliftonville; Shamrock Rovers v Coleraine; St Patrick's Ath v Glentoran; Drogheda Utd v Portadown.

(Ties to be played on February 11th and 18th). Bye: Sligo Rovers, Derry City, Linfield, Crusaders.

PAUL BUTTNER

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