Football: Di Canio treated harshly - Vialli

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GIANLUCA VIALLI has entered the debate about his countryman and former Juventus team-mate Paolo Di Canio, implying that there is one law for the English and one for Italians, as well as criticising the Sheffield Wednesday manager, Danny Wilson.

Without naming names, the Chelsea player-manager made a clear reference to the incident last May in which David Batty of Newcastle manhandled the referee David Elleray after being sent off against Blackburn. Batty was fined pounds 1,500, but had only one extra match added to his suspension, as opposed to the draconian punishment which it is being suggested that Di Canio faces for pushing over Paul Alcock at Hillsborough last Saturday.

Speaking before Chelsea left for tonight's European Cup-Winners' Cup second leg away to Helsingborg of Sweden, which they enter with only a 1-0 lead, Vialli said: "What Paolo did was wrong, definitely. But I think somebody else did the same at the end of last season. I think because he was English, and Di Canio's not, the way they were treated was different.

"I hardly remember anyone talking about that, but with Di Canio we're talking about him being banned for nine months, or life. I don't see the difference.

"Also, I thought Di Canio was really put under pressure by his manager [Wilson] when his manager kept saying that he wasn't tough and hard enough to cope with English football. Sometimes you end up reacting in the wrong way. So I have no excuses for him, but comprehension."

Back in Italy, Di Canio was in fighting mood once more. "I object to the reaction in England and the use of the term crazy," he said. "Somebody who is crazy gets a gun and kills people in the street. It's not somebody who shoves a referee. You cannot call me crazy for that.

"I have come here to apologise because the match was seen live all over Europe and I really am sorry for the kids and the young kids who watched me," Di Canio said on Italian television.

Vialli was keen to stress the positive values that foreign players have brought to the English game, which his cosmopolitan squad have another chance to emphasise in southern Sweden tonight.

Dennis Wise, one of only two Englishmen to start the first leg, is still doubtful with a knee injury and will probably be saved for the Premiership game at Liverpool on Sunday. Not that Vialli, he insists, is treating the weakest of the three European club competitions as any less important than the domestic league, in which his team have moved from 17th to seventh with three successive wins.

Helsingborg, meanwhile, distracted by the magnitude of what they could achieve tonight, have slipped out of contention for the Swedish championship, the latest blow being a 2-1 home defeat by their greatest rivals, Malmo.

They still have the country's leading scorer in Arild Stavrum, who, playing wide on the right, will again have two important roles: restricting Graeme Le Saux's forward runs and supporting Magnus Powell, the central striker. That, of course, assumes that Le Saux will play, since predicting even a possible Chelsea team remains one of the most thankless of journalistic tasks. But whichever 18 players Vialli turns to this time should be good enough, despite the unexpectedly narrow margin at Stamford Bridge, to see the holders through.