Gladiators Face Sudden Death

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Byline: By Ian Parkes

Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool will know by July 27 at the latest whether Italian representation in next season's Champions League will be severely diminished, writes Ian Parkes.

The date is the deadline set by Uefa for football's domestic governing bodies to submit their list of teams for next season's European club competitions.

If the recommendations of Stefano Palazzi, the federal prosecutor at the Italian match-fixing trial, are passed, then Inter Milan may be Italy's sole representatives in the Champions League.

Palazzi sent shockwaves through Italy yesterday by asking for reigning Serie A champions Juventus to be relegated to at least Serie C, the equivalent of Coca-Cola League One, and handed a six-point penalty for next season.

He has also suggested the three remaining clubs involved in the scandal ( AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio, who finished second, fourth and sixth respectively last season ( are demoted to Serie B, with the former docked three points and the latter duo 15.

Milan's billionaire owner and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is outraged at Palazzi's requests, insists Milan are innocent and says if Juve are found guilty then his side should be awarded the last two Scudettos won by the Turin club.

"Milan have never had refereeing favours, on the contrary, they've been victims of refereeing favours in favour of other clubs," said Berlusconi.

On a dark day for Juve, they also lost the services of manager Fabio Capello, reluctantly accepting his resignation and now a return to Real Madrid is expected to be confirmed within the next 48 hours.

Capello, who led the Bianconeri to the league title in 2005 and again in May, guided Real to the Primera Liga crown in 1996-97 during his previous spell at the Bernabeu Stadium.

His departure comes as no surprise as it was known he had become increasingly disgruntled with Juve's off-field problems, while new Real president Ramon Calderon had made the appointment of Capello one of the principle elements of his election campaign. …