Chelsea are preparing to be without Branislav Ivanovic for three games of their Premier League run-in with the Football Association to scrutinise video evidence that appears to show the Serbian international striking Shaun Maloney during Saturday's win over Wigan Athletic.
The FA will on Tuesday ask the referee from the game at Stamford Bridge, Mike Jones, and his assistants to confirm they did not witness the incident at the time. Ivanovic appears to punch Maloney in the midriff after an altercation, with the Scottish midfielder left bent double on the turf immediately before Chelsea break downfield for Juan Mata to convert their controversial stoppage‑time winner.
The governing body will conduct its own review of the footage but is expected to announce a violent‑conduct charge which will lead to Ivanovic, one of Chelsea's most consistent performers this season, being banned for three games. Roberto Di Matteo's squad is already stretched by an onerous fixture schedule and Ashley Cole (ankle) and John Terry (ribs) carrying injuries.
The Serb was able to feature in the match at Fulham on Monday night, alongside Terry, as the paperwork over a charge could not have been finalised ahead of the match at Craven Cottage, but a ban would lead to Ivanovic missing the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur and the league derbies against Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers.
Ivanovic opened the scoring on Saturday, converting from an offside position. The Wigan manager, Roberto Martínez subsequently described the assistant referee Dave Bryan's performance as "disgusting" and "horrific". It remains to be seen whether the FA will decide to reprimand the Spaniard for those comments. Bryan has been removed from his duties running the line at Blackburn Rovers' game against Liverpool on Tuesday evening.