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Can players be suspended from the 2024 UEFA Champions League final?

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There are few higher-stakes encounters in club football than the suffocating tension of a two-legged UEFA Champions League semifinal. 

This season sees 14-time winners Real Madrid tackle fellow European heavyweights Bayern Munich, while Paris Saint-Germain’s ongoing quest for a first Champions League crown brings them face to face with Bayern’s Bundesliga counterparts Borussia Dortmund.

PSG’s gripping quarterfinal against Barcelona turned decisively in their favour when Ronald Araujo was sent off for Xavi’s side. There is every chance of players buckling under the pressure or losing their cool in the semis and four tough nights await for the referees and their teams of officials.

But what are the suspension rules in UEFA competitions and what is the risk when it comes to players helping their team to the Wembley final and being forced to watch from the sidelines?

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For a few generations of English football fans and many others around the globe, the spectre of the totting up yellow card suspension brings one man to mind. Paul Gascoigne.

England’s breakout superstar had done much to haul Bobby Robson’s Three Lions to the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup, where they took West Germany to extra time. With the scores locked at 1-1, Gascoigne launched into a late lunge on Thomas Berthold and received a yellow card that would rule him out of the final should his team get there. Gazza burst into tears and the waterworks were on again by the time England lost on penalties.

In the Champions League, players receive a one-match suspension after receiving three bookings that do not result in a red card. For example, if a player is sent off for two bookable offences and also receives a yellow card in a subsequent match, this will not result in another ban.

There are also one-match suspensions for every subsequent odd-numbered booking after three, but the chances are a player will be told to calm down and behave themselves by their manager before they are able to rack up five, seven or nine cautions in the same Champions League campaign.

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It’s common for competitions to have amnesties when it comes to yellow card suspensions so that the prospect of a ban is not hanging over a player for an unduly long period of time.

However, there is no clean slate after the group stage and bookings during the round-robin phase can come back to haunt players in the later rounds.

A consequence of this is Real Madrid being without experienced right-back Dani Carvajal for the first-leg against Bayern after he collected a third booking of the competition during the 1-1 draw against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Teammate Auerelin Tchouameni sat out that game having seen a third Champions League yellow card at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Neither Bayern nor PSG nor Dortmund have any suspension concerns.

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Ousmane Dembele, Lucas Hernandez, Milan Skriniar, Manuel Ugarte, Vitinho, Leon Goretzka, Sasha Boye, Jude Bellingham, Eduardo Camavinga, Vinicius Jr, Emre Can, Mats Hummels and Ian Maatsen all walked a disciplinary tightrope successfully during the second legs of their teams’ quarterfinal triumphs.

Handily for them, all players begin the semifinals with a clean slate as the yellow card tallies are wiped after the quarters

Put simply, this means no one will be doing a Gazza and being ruled out of the final through a booking. The only way a player can be suspended from the Champions League final is if they are sent off in the second leg of the semifinal or receive a straight red card in the first leg that UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body believes merits a more severe punishment than a one-game ban.

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