Balotelli ban must spark El Shaarawy

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty ImagesWith Mario Balotelli suspended for three matches, Stephan El Shaarawy will need to step up for Milan against Napoli and Juventus.

As is often the case in Italian football, the lure of feeling victimised and conspired against is a trap that many fall into. While some will argue that it is warranted in the case of Milan's crosstown rivals, the fact is that in this situation the officials in Florence didn't take too kindly to Mario Balotelli's choice of words.

Following the weekend's action, suggestions were made that decisions were shaping events in favour of Milan qualifying for the Champions League. Despite that being absolute nonsense, Marco Amelia was among the group who have retorted but perhaps the approach adopted by Riccardo Montolivo is the most sensible.

Rather than blame the officials, or things beyond their control, Montolivo stated that the club must continue to focus on things within their power. Milan were also on the wrong end of questionable decisions, but the Rossoneri also failed to do what they had to do even though Paolo Tagliavento has reportedly been suspended for a month following his poor performance.

Rightly or wrongly, Balotelli has had two games added to his suspension and is now set to at least miss fundamental games against Napoli and Juventus. While the Rossoneri prepare an appeal to have the severity of the ban reduced, it comes as a timely reminder for the 22-year-old on how easily he can fall on the wrong side of the rulebook.

- Balotelli gets 3-match ban

As a result, Massimiliano Allegri must now place his faith in Giampaolo Pazzini while Stephan El Shaarawy will look to respond to the added responsibility he will undoubtedly be handed.

El Shaarawy has received unfair criticism over the past month, over what many have perceived as an inability to play alongside Balotelli. With his national teammate sidelined, he will have to play a bigger role even if it results in giving further weight to the critics' claims.

The primary reason behind his lack of goals is without doubt due to fatigue after an explosive start to the season where he carried the team through its early struggles.

However, rather than being completely incompatible as has been suggested, El Shaarawy would have felt less responsibility on his shoulders as he shared the load with the new arrival. Milan's setup has changed since Balotelli arrived, with more of the play naturally going through him. On Sunday, it will be El Shaarawy who others will look towards to make things happen.

An unwavering trademark of his performances has been his workmanlike approach, covering the left flank with a stamina level previously unseen. Yet more will be required against the top two sides in Italy over the next fortnight, with the risk of allowing the chasing pack making up valuable ground.

It is a similar scenario for Pazzini, who has a more reserved role within the squad following the arrival of Balotelli. It will be up to both players to make a significant impact in order to soften the blow of losing Super Mario.

Can Milan beat Napoli and Juventus without Balotelli? What have you made of all the decisions and controversy over the past few days?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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