Arsenal face striking crisis

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The Independent Football

Jose Antonio Reyes, the Arsenal striker, could join Dennis Bergkamp on the sidelines for their next three games at today's Football Association hearing into his violent conduct charge.

Bergkamp yesterday lost his appeal for wrongful dismissal after being sent off during the FA Cup fifth round tie against Sheffield United last weekend. As a result, his three-match suspension will start with immediate effect, ruling him out of Saturday's game against Southampton, as well as next week's cup replay at Bramall Lane and a Premiership home match against Portsmouth.

To make matters worse for Arsenal, Reyes could be banned for exactly the same three games, leaving Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, with Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie as his two recognised strikers.

Under the Football Association's "fast-track" rules, Reyes cannot attend today hearing, but Arsenal will defend the Spanish international in his absence.

He is said to have slapped Sheffield United's Andy Liddell amid the mêlée which ensued over Danny Cullip's tackle on Cesc Fabregas, with Bergkamp having pushed Cullip in the face to earn his red card. Reyes' alleged offence was missed by the referee, Neale Barry, leading to the FA charging the him after reviewing video evidence.

Blackburn Rovers have admitted a charge of failing to control their players following a mass confrontation during their Premiership game against Chelsea at Ewood Park on 2 February. Chelsea have denied the same charge and both clubs have requested personal hearings to argue their cases.

The FA charges ensued after the bad-tempered match, which Chelsea won 1-0, was marred by four separate fracas. These started with the brawl which followed Paul Dickov's late challenge on Petr Cech as he tried to reach the rebound from a penalty saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper.

An FA statement said: "Blackburn Rovers have admitted a breach of FA rule E22a for failing to ensure that their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion. Chelsea have denied the same charge.

"The charges related to a mass confrontation during the Premier League match at Ewood Park on 2 February. Both clubs have requested personal hearings which will be scheduled in due course."

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