Barcelona's Luis Suarez gets two-match ban for Espanyol tunnel row
Luis Suarez has been banned for two games for his role in a dustup in a tunnel after Barcelona's win over local rivals Espanyol in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
Barcelona, who won an ill-tempered match 4-1 with eight Espanyol players booked and two sent off, immediately issued a statement saying they plan to appeal the ban.
After the final whistle, the two teams scuffled in the tunnel where, according to referee Martinez Munuera's report, the former Liverpool man taunted his opponents.
Although Barca reportedly related a different version of events to the authorities, the Spanish FA's disciplinary committee has decided to impose a two-game sanction, which would keep Suarez from playing in the return leg at Espanyol's Cornella-El Prat stadium next Wednesday and a likely quarterfinal first leg.
Espanyol players Pape Diop and Hernan Perez, who were both sent off during Wednesday's game, have each received one-match suspensions and will miss the second leg of the round-of-16 tie.
In announcing their appeal, Barca said Suarez had not used the words the referee wrote in his report.
"Barcelona received notification on Friday from the Spanish Football Federation that striker Luis Suarez was to face a two-match suspension for taking part [in] incidents between players from Barca and Espanyol in the tunnel leading to the dressing rooms following Wednesday's Copa del Rey last 16 first leg at Camp Nou," the statement said.
"Barcelona will immediately proceed to appeal the ban. If the sanction holds up, Suarez would miss the return leg next Wednesday and a hypothetical first leg of the quarterfinals, should Barca qualify. In the appeal, FC Barcelona is expected to argue that the player, as he later stated, did not use the allegedly offensive words that were attributed to him in the referee's official notes following the match."
Speaking at Friday's tense news conference before the punishment was announced, Blaugrana coach Luis Enrique said he did not want to comment.
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"It does not depend on me whether Luis Suarez gets a punishment or not," said the former Roma and Celta Vigo coach, who after Wednesday's game had dismissed the noises heard coming from the Camp Nou tunnel as "Christmas carols."
The first leg also saw other conflicts between the teams, including Espanyol goalkeeper Pau Lopez appearing to stand on Lionel Messi's ankle, although the youngster has denied any malicious intent.
Barca defender Gerard Pique also fanned the flames with some disparaging postmatch comments about the Catalan capital's smaller club, questioning their ability to fill the 40,500 capacity Cornella-El Prat stadium for the return game next week -- comments that may see him charged by La Liga's anti-violence committee.
The recent 0-0 La Liga draw between the two teams at Cornella-El Prat was also a controversial affair, and La Liga's authorities have officially denounced racist chants aimed at both Neymar and Luis Enrique during that game.
Suarez, who has a long history of controversy on the pitch and is still serving out his nine-match FIFA ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup, is due to return to international service for Uruguay's fifth World Cup qualifier away to Brazil this March.