Branislav Ivanovic handed a three-match ban
Chelsea's Champions League qualification hopes took a blow today after defender Branislav Ivanovic was found guilty of violent conduct and handed a three-match ban.
The right-back was charged by the Football Association (FA) on Tuesday after being caught on video striking Wigan's Shaun Maloney in the midriff during the Blues' 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Ivanovic contested the charge, but the FA's panel deemed he was guilty at a hearing today and will now miss the club's next three games - including Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham.
Referee Mike Jones missed the incident during the game, allowing the FA to take retrospective action against the Serbian, who has been in excellent form for the London club of late.
The 28-year-old has made the right-back position his own in recent months and has scored three goals in his past three Barclays Premier League games.
Ivanovic will miss Sunday's London derby at Wembley and the club's next two league games - Arsenal away on April 21, and their home game against QPR eight days later.
He will be available for Wednesday's Champions League semi-final clash against Barcelona as the ban covers domestic games only.
The FA Regulatory Commission who made the decision decided against extending the defender's ban to four games.
The Serb admitted there had been contact with Maloney, but denied that it had been "violent" in any way.
A Chelsea statement read: "Chelsea Football Club is disappointed the FA Regulatory Commission today (Thursday) found Branislav Ivanovic guilty of violent conduct in Saturday's Premier League match against Wigan.
"Chelsea FC does not believe the incident was violent. We note that the FA did not deem our appeal frivolous and it therefore had merit."
Blues interim manager Roberto Di Matteo has two other options at right-back in the form of Jose Bosingwa and Paulo Ferreira.
Bosingwa has struggled for form this campaign and veteran Portugal full-back Ferreira has only appeared six times for the Londoners this year.
Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo could have done without Ivanovic being suspended as he already has two big concerns in defence.
Ashley Cole is carrying an ankle injury while captain John Terry has had to go through the extreme discomfort of playing with two broken ribs since the club's Champions League quarter-final against Benfica.
Chelsea trail Tottenham and Newcastle, who are joint fourth in the table, by two points with five matches of the season remaining.
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