Defensive worries mount for Chelsea
Chelsea are facing a potential defensive crisis derailing their season after Branislav Ivanovic was hit with a violent-conduct charge.
The Blues could be without Ivanovic for three crucial London derbies if he is found guilty of striking Shaun Maloney in Saturday's Barclays Premier League win over Wigan - starting with Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham.
With captain John Terry playing through the pain of cracked ribs and left-back Ashley Cole's ankle injury reportedly worse than first feared, caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo could be faced with a real dilemma this weekend and beyond during what is a punishing schedule.
The Football Association charged Ivanovic on Tuesday night after examining video footage of his clash with Latics midfielder Maloney, which took place moments before Juan Mata's controversial winner in Chelsea's 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Referee Mike Jones confirmed he and his assistants did not witness the incident, giving the FA the green light to investigate it retrospectively.
Ivanovic, 28, was given until 6pm on Wednesday to respond to the charge. As well as the Spurs semi, he faces missing two league derbies against Arsenal and QPR.
The video footage, which emerged after Saturday's game, shows Maloney going down bent double after appearing to be struck in the midriff.
Defender Ivanovic has been one of the Blues' best players this season, once again making the problem right-back position his own, and his absence would be a huge blow to the club's hopes of finishing in the top four.
Any punishment for him would only add insult to injury for Wigan boss Roberto Martinez after the officials failed to chalk off both Chelsea goals for offside on Saturday.
The Spaniard has insisted he does not want to see Ivanovic banned, possibly because he would miss a game against one of the Latics' relegation rivals. "As a player, if you do something wrong you should be punished at that moment," Martinez said.