by Anton Johan
Current Serie A leaders AC Milan received a big blow this week when their top Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was awarded a three-match ban after being found guilty of insulting an assistant referee in the club's recent game against Fiorentina.
AC Milan fans were outraged at the hefty punishment, which means the Swede will miss three of the six remaining Serie A games this season. What's more, the ban couldn't have come at a worse time considering AC Milan are a mere three points ahead of Napoli.
In an interview with leading Italian television program Striscia la notizia, Ibrahimovic said he is confident his teammates will be able to cope without him. 'We have great squad and Milan will win even without me,' he said. But the striker was also angry over the ban.
'I was given a three-match ban for talking to myself,' he said. 'I was angry at myself because I lost the ball. If they give me a three-match ban for that, then others should be suspended for life.' According to reports, the striker was upset and swore at the referee.
However, deserved or not, despite his confidence in his team, there is little doubt that Ibrahimovic' absence will weigh heavily on AC Milan in their next three games, because just one loss could put them tie with Napoli, a club that is currently firing on all cylinders.
Plus, Milan's fierce rivals Inter Milan are just five points behind in the standings, and equally hungry to win their sixth consecutive Serie A championship. So Milan will have to pull out all the stops in their upcoming games against Sampdoria, Brescia and Bologna.
Interestingly, Ibrahimovic had only just returned from a two-match ban awarded for punching a defender in the stomach last month. That ban was reduced from three to two matches on appeal from AC Milan. The club is also expected to appeal this new ban.
Here are the complete Serie A results from the weekend: