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Stats suggest Bale is Madrid's fall guy

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By ESPN Staff

City ban Thatcher for six matches

Ben Thatcher could return to action within a month after Manchester City imposed a six-match ban for his horrific challenge on Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes, two of which are suspended.

The 30-year-old full-back could return for the Premiership clash at Eastlands against West Ham on September 23 after missing the league trips to Reading and Blackburn as well as the Carling Cup match against Chesterfield.

Thatcher was also fined six weeks' wages, again two of which are suspended pending further incidents such as his challenge when he sent Mendes crashing into the advertising hoardings with his elbow.

City chief executive Alistair Mackintosh told the club's official website: 'As custodians of the club, and football in general, the board and the manager felt it was important to act as soon as possible.'

City's action could persuade the Football Association to drop any further action against the former Tottenham defender, who was charged with serious foul play following the incident.

Manager Stuart Pearce has also expressed his hope that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service take the view that criminal charges are unnecessary, especially if he has been heavily punished already.

Thatcher has been given until September 12 to respond to the FA charge - he has yet to do so - after which a date will be set for a disciplinary hearing.

Pearce described the challenge as 'indefensible' and claimed the defender had received a 'massive wake-up call' after seeing the incident on television.