The Nice player Dante has defended his teammate Mario Balotelli and said that he was surprised by his red card in last Saturday’s victory at Lorient.

Balotelli was sent off for the third time in just 14 league appearances for Nice after 68 minutes play last weekend. Tony Chapron, the match referee, said that Balotelli had aimed a “classic” English insult at him during the game that resulted in the dismissal.

He was also sent off in his club’s game at Bordeaux just before Christmas and in the home game against Lorient last October, however, that dismissal was rescinded.

As a result of the latest red card Balotelli missed the team’s match against Montpellier yesterday.

Speaking to Canal+ last week Dante said, “We always try to help him, to speak to him. It’s surprising to see him do that. He had had a very good week of training; he was very focused, calm. It’s a shame. He’ll need to come back because we really need him.”

Goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale also defended Balotelli, “He didn’t say much. Perhaps the referee wanted to make a name for himself. Sometimes, they give out cards for nothing.”

However, Favre has dismissed the idea that Balotelli’s controversial reputation could have been a factor in Chapron’s decision to send him off. Following the team’s win he said, “You think it’s red because it’s Balotelli? That’s nonsense. They are perfectly impartial. If there is a reason to send someone off, they do it. If there is no reason to send someone off, they don’t do it.”

Balotelli has scored nine times in fourteen league appearances for Nice since he arrived from Liverpool last summer. In the past he has also played for Inter Milan, Manchester City and AC milan.