Manchester United have been dealt a major blow ahead of their Premier League showdown with Arsenal on Saturday. The Professional Game Match Officials’ Board (PGMO) have announced that Mark Clattenburg will be withdrawn from duty this weekend as the investigation into Chelsea’s allegations of abusive and racial language used towards their players continues.
The referee was the centre of a storm during the game after a couple of highly questionable decisions, but it was Chelsea’s post-match allegations that have increased the gravity of the situation and resulted in Clattenburg being taken out of the line of fire.
“Mark Clattenburg is one of the elite referees in world football and, in these circumstances, the intense level of scrutiny would detract from the match and be unfair to the clubs and the supporters of both sides,” said a statement from the PGMO with some claims that are about as dubious as Clattenburg’s views on the seriousness of a foot in the chest.
Wayne Rooney is the token Englishman on FIFA’s shortlist for the Ballon d’Or. 23 players were yesterday nominated for the prize, but it’s hugely unlikely that the Manchester United man will be holding aloft the lump of gold in Zurich on January 7 next. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are considered the most likely candidates to win as they continue their own personal squabbles via the medium of individual awards.
Messi has won the award for each of the last three years, but after Real Madrid’s La Liga win and Barcelona’s comparative lack of silverware, there is speculation that this could be the Immaculately Preened One’s best chance of adding to the award he won previously in 2008.
In all, four current Premier League players make the list, with recent alumnus Didier Drogba also included. Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli are Manchester City’s representatives with Rooney’s United team-mate Robin van Persie also included for his amazing spell prior to leaving Arsenal.
There’s a big weekend of racing goodness at the end of this week’s rainbow with some quality jumps action and the small matter of the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday. Until then we’ll have to find our winners in less glamourous locations and that’s not wanting to do a disservice to any of the places hosting action today. The stunning environs of Catterick, Yarmouth, Taunton and Wolverhampton are the venues for today’s racing. Templegate of The Sun gives his NAP of the day to Hopes N Dreams who goes in the 7.40 at Wolverhampton.