After losing the Spanish Super Cup final, Barcelona is also in danger of losing Lionel Messi for an extended period after he hit an opponent toward the end of the match.

Messi could be suspended for up to 12 games for the red card he received in the final minutes of his team’s 3-2 loss to Athletic Bilbao in Seville on Sunday.

After passing the ball out to the left flank, Messi swung his right arm toward the head of Athletic forward Asier Villalibre as they ran forward toward the box. Villalibre immediately fell to the ground and Messi was given his first red card in 753 appearances for Barcelona.

Referee Gil Manzano said in his match report that Messi hit his opponent with “excessive force” while the ball was not near him.

The Spanish soccer federation’s competitions committee will decide on the charges against Messi, and the player’s eventual suspension could range from one to three matches or from four to 12 matches, depending on how severe the federation considers the incident.


Barcelona was already preparing its defense regardless of the charges that would be presented by the federation against its player.

If found guilty, Messi will be suspended for matches in the Spanish league or the Copa del Rey. Barcelona is in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey and trails Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in the league.

PHIL NEVILLE, who led England to the Women’s World Cup semifinals in 2019, left the job earlier than planned on Monday to move back into men’s soccer as coach of Inter Miami.

Neville originally said he would stay until September when Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman would succeed him after the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics to coach England into the home European Championship in 2022. Now the Football Association, which runs the British Olympic team, is searching for a coach for Tokyo and an interim England coach.

“It has been an honor to manage England and I have enjoyed three of the best years of my career with The FA and the Lionesses,” Neville said in a statement. “The players who wear the England shirt are some of the most talented and dedicated athletes I have ever had the privilege to work with. They have challenged me and improved me as a coach, and I am very grateful to them for the fantastic memories we have shared.”

He is moving to a Major League Soccer franchise in Miami partly owned by David Beckham that is playing only its second season. The England job was his first in women’s football and his first as first-team coach.


FIFA: Kieran Trippier’s ban from playing for Atletico Madrid will resume after FIFA on Monday rejected the Spanish club’s appeal against the defender’s punishment for breaching betting rules being applied worldwide by the English Football Association.

The England international was punished by the FA for passing information on his 2019 transfer from Tottenham to Atletico to be used by friends to bet on.

Spanish league leader Atletico succeeded two weeks ago in getting FIFA to pause Trippier’s 10-week ban that was imposed in December and runs through Feb. 28.

MLS: Hernán Losada was hired Monday as coach of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United.

Losada had been manager of Belgium’s Beerschot since the middle of the 2018-19 season. Ben Olson was D.C. United’s coach from August 2010 until he was fired Nov. 8 and Chad Ashton followed as interim coach.

Losada, a 38-year-old Argentine, will be MLS’s youngest active head coach.


He was an attacking midfielder in Argentina for Independiente (2003-05) and Universidad de Chile (2005-06), then in Belgium for Beerschot (2006-08, 2011-13, 2015-18), Anderlecht (2008-11), Charleroi (2010-11) and Lierse (2013-15) and in the Netherlands for Heerenveen (2009-10).

POLAND: Coach Jerzy Brzeczek was fired Monday, five months before the European Championship and two months before the start of World Cup qualifying.

The Polish soccer federation did not give a reason for its decision or announce a replacement. Federation president Zbigniew Boniek is scheduled to hold a news conference on Thursday.

Brzeczek is a former international midfielder who was appointed after Poland finished last in its group at the 2018 World Cup. Brzeczek guided Poland to qualification for Euro 2020 by finishing at the top of its qualifying group.


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: The hockey world championships were pulled from Belarus following pressure from opposition groups and a threatened boycott by sponsors.


The International Ice Hockey Federation cited safety concerns and said it will seek a new country to co-host the tournament with Latvia or host it on its own.

Criticism of Belarus’ role as co-host grew after authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election last year was followed by mass arrests at largely peaceful demonstrations.

The IIHF said its council “determined that it is currently impossible to ensure the welfare of teams, spectators and officials” in Belarus.

IIHF president Rene Fasel had tried to keep the men’s tournament in Belarus, claiming it could build bridges between the opposition and Lukashenko. Opposition groups criticized Fasel after he and Lukashenko embraced when they met for talks last week.

Mass protests swept Belarus after official results from the presidential election in August gave Lukashenko a landslide victory over his widely popular opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. She and her supporters refused to recognize the result, saying the vote was fraudulent. Authorities cracked down hard on the largely peaceful demonstrations which followed.



DAVIS CUP: The Davis Cup Finals will expand to 11 days from seven in 2021, and the International Tennis Federation is considering holding the competition in three European cities instead of just Madrid.

The ITF announced that the international men’s tennis team event will run from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5, with 18 countries participating in six groups of three.

The number of nations reaching the finals will be cut to 16 in 2022.

Under the proposed three-site setup, the two new cities each would host two group stages and one quarterfinal matchup. Madrid, where the current season-ending format made its debut in 2019, would have two group stages, two quarterfinals, the semifinals and the final.

The ITF said there will be an open bidding process to pick contender cities that could join Madrid in 2021.



WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Cape Verde has become the third team to withdraw from the men’s world handball championships because of coronavirus cases.

The International Handball Federation says the African island nation was unable to field the minimum number of 10 players. Cape Verde already forfeited a preliminary round game to Germany on Sunday and will now be classified 32nd and last in the competition.

The IHF said Saturday that two of Cape Verde’s 11 players had tested positive.

The United States and the Czech Republic withdrew because of coronavirus cases in their squads before the tournament began and were replaced by other teams.

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