Premier League

Sessegnon appeal turned down

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Wed, 01 May 2013 18:19:00

Rafa Benitez says rumours of Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea will not distract him from the task of beating Basel on Thursday.

The outgoing UEFA Champions League holders are 90 minutes away from a second successive European final and take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their Europa League semi-final at Stamford Bridge.

But the build-up to the game has been overshadowed by Mourinho's strongest hint yet that he could leave Real Madrid for west London this summer.

Asked about the prospect of handing over to Mourinho, an at-times bitter rival when Benitez was at Liverpool, Chelsea's interim boss was not interested in adding fuel to the fire.

He said: "It's not my business. I have to concentrate on this game. That's it. I think it's quite important."

Pressed for his opinion on Mourinho's reference to moving "where people love me" Benitez said: "Each one has his way. My way is to concentrate on the next game, that's it."

Benitez's immediate concern is holding off Thursday's Swiss visitors, who scored twice at Tottenham in the previous round, and moving a step closer to recapturing the trophy he won as Valencia manager nine years ago.

He said: "Winning a trophy is important to everyone. We are not in the final yet and we are playing against a tough team.

"Basel will come trying to score, they did it against Spurs and I am sure they will have the same approach. They need to score.

"We have a good team and we are so close to the final we have to be concentrated. I have a lot of confidence in my players."

The 28-year-old will now miss Sunderland's remaining three games against Stoke, Southampton and Tottenham as Paolo Di Canio's men battle for survival.

Referee Lee Probert issued a straight red card for Sessegnon's second-half challenge on Yacouba Sylla as the Black Cats slumped to a 6-1 Premier League defeat.

The player was astonished to be dismissed and Di Canio signalled the club's intention to appeal within minutes of the final whistle, but that has been rejected.

An FA statement read: "At an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today, Stephane Sessegnon's claim of wrongful dismissal was unsuccessful meaning the Sunderland AFC player's three-match ban remains with immediate effect.

"Sessegnon was dismissed for serious foul play during his side's game against Aston Villa on Monday 29 April 2013."

The Benin international's red card was the second of his career in England, the first coming in a 1-1 league draw at Newcastle in March last year.

Sessegnon's absence will come as a major blow as he has been in sparkling form under new boss Di Canio, scoring the first goal in their 3-0 derby win at Newcastle and then firing his side to victory over Everton six days later to send them clear of the relegation zone.

Despite their humiliation at Villa, Sunderland, like Paul Lambert's men and the Magpies, remain five points better off than 18th-placed Wigan, although the Latics have a game in hand.

Sunderland take on the Potters and Southampton at home in their next two games and will hope to have safety wrapped up before travelling to White Hart Lane on the final day to face a Tottenham side which could still be battling for a Champions League place.

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