Ivanovic faces three-match ban while Barça plot London mission


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The Independent Online

Chelsea's chances of catching Tottenham and Newcastle and qualifying for next season's Champions League were dealt a potential blow yesterday when Branislav Ivanovic was charged with violent conduct for his off-the-ball clash with Shaun Maloney in Saturday's win over Wigan.

Ivanovic, who faces a three-match ban if found guilty, was caught on video appearing to strike Maloney in the midriff moments before Juan Mata's controversial winner. Referee Mike Jones confirmed he and his assistants did not witness the incident, meaning the Football Association can investigate it retrospectively. Ivanovic, 28, has until 6pm tonight to respond to the charge.

Barcelona, Chelsea's opponents in the Champions League semi-final, will spend four days in London next week, both for the match at Stamford Bridge and to seclude themselves from the build-up to the crucial Spanish league fixture with Real Madrid next weekend.

Pep Guardiola will take the club's last pre-semi-final first-leg training session on home soil on Monday morning. The team will then fly to London and spend the whole of Tuesday in England.

After Wednesday's game they will spend a further night in London before travelling home on Thursday, just 48 hours before they face Real Madrid at Camp Nou in a huge game for the La Liga title race.

If the delayed return is designed to isolate the players from the build up to Saturday's showdown, the early arrival serves to reinforce Guardiola's insistence that Chelsea will, in spite of their league form, be an extremely dangerous opponent.

"Chelsea, can knock us out señores," Guardiola warned ahead of last night's game with Getafe – in response to Jose Mourinho's comments last week that Barcelona were already in the final waiting for the winners of Real Madrid's meeting with Bayern Munich.