Juventus winger Douglas Costa has been given a four-match ban by Serie A authorities for violent conduct after he was sent off against Sassuolo on Saturday for spitting in the mouth of opponent Federico Di Francesco.
Brazil international Costa was sent off in the dying embers of Juve's 2-1 win, and Goal's Chris Burton confirmed his punishment after he also head-butted and looked to aim an elbow at Di Francesco.
Speculation has surfaced in the days since that it was a racist comment from winger Di Francesco that inspired Costa's assault. Sassuolo's summer signing denied the suggestion, per Burton:
"I am deeply disturbed by speculation and inventions that have appeared in some national media.
"It is all offensive and disparaging.
"I do not allow myself to be attributed to racist behaviours and phrases that do not belong to my ethical values and which are the fruit of others' imaginations.
"I ask for and I demand respect."
Costa will miss Sunday's trip to Frosinone, then back-to-back home fixtures against Bologna and Napoli, as well as the away visit to Udinese on October 6. He'll be missing from league action for more than a month in total and will be cleared to return at home to Genoa on October 20.
Eleven Sports posted footage of the head-butt and spitting incident, as well as a breakdown of Costa's apology, where he admitted on Instagram that his actions were ugly:
The affair marred an otherwise joyous occasion for Juventus, who won 2-1 at home by virtue of a Cristiano Ronaldo brace, his first goals for the club since joining from Real Madrid for £100 million this past summer.
Juventus face Valencia in their opening group fixture of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, and manager Massimiliano Allegri suggested Costa could still start if it fits his tactics:
Wednesday's game at the Mestalla and Juve's following Champions League clash at home to Young Boys on October 2 will be the only fixtures for which he's eligible while his domestic suspension is ongoing.
It's been a month since Costa made his only Serie A start of the season thus far in August's 3-2 win over Chievo. Since then, Federico Bernardeschi has been preferred on the right flank and Costa dropped in favour of new talisman Ronaldo.
Bianconeri stalwart Giorgio Chiellini came out to provide what support he could for his team-mate following his spitting offence:
🎙 @chiellini: "The lads are behind @douglascosta. What happened on Sunday was very uncharacteristic of him. He's said sorry, he'll pay the price, but at the same time he should not be crucified. He'll help us in the @ChampionsLeague and @SerieA from late October." #UCL #VCFJuve
Costa, 28, was a crucial figure on both flanks for Juventus last season as they ran to s seventh successive Serie A title, supplying 14 assists and scoring six goals in all competitions.
However, his distasteful decision against Sassuolo means he's going to struggle even more to match those numbers in 2018-19, while Bernardeschi will consider his spot more secure while Costa is sidelined.