On the day that Didier Drogba was charged by the Football Association with violent conduct – and faces at least a three-game ban with the organisation understood to be considering a lengthier punishment when its hearing takes place on Tuesday – Chelsea suffered another blow with goalkeeper Petr Cech breaking down in training with a recurrence of a calf injury.
Cech immediately withdrew from the squad for today's Premier League match at West Bromwich Albion and will miss the Czech Republic's World Cup qualifier away to San Marino on Wednesday. The injury to his right leg is an aggravation of one he suffered when he last played for his country, although Chelsea are confident he will be fit for their league game at home to Newcastle United on 22 November.
However, so stretched is Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad that he has included Michael Ballack, missing for a month, and Ashley Cole for the trip to the Hawthorns even though neither is fully fit, and will be among the substitutes, where they will be joined by youngsters Miroslav Stoch and Michael Woods as the Brazilian tries to marshal his resources.
Added to long-term injury victim Michael Essien are Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole, Alex, Juliano Belletti and Franco Di Santo. Deco has been a doubt, after being substituted at half-time during the midweek Carling Cup defeat to Burnley, but he has travelled.
It was during that match that Drogba, who is in today's squad, threw a coin back into the crowd after it was thrown towards him as he celebrated scoring his first goal of an injury-plagued, frustrating season. Drogba also made a rude gesture to the Burnley supporters for which he was booked by referee Kevin Stroud, who confirmed yesterday that he had not seen the coin-throwing incident which opened the way for the FA to lay a charge.
Chelsea are also awaiting the results of an investigation by the Metropolitan Police and it is likely that Drogba will be interviewed by detectives. However, the prospect of criminal charges is understood to be limited. Chelsea will decide their own sanctions for the 30-year-old striker, who could be fined, once all the other deliberations are decided. They are sensitive to Drogba's predicament and do not want to add fuel to the fire by fining him immediately but are also likely to take a hard line on the player once he is dealt with by the authorities.
In a statement issued last night, Chelsea said: "Although Didier Drogba was hit by an object, that does not excuse his subsequent actions. He also recognises that, has not sought to justify it that way, has sincerely expressed his regret and has apologised for the incident. The matter will be dealt with by the club after the FA and police processes are complete."
Team-mate Frank Lampard has defended Drogba, saying: "There are two sides to it. He's come out straight away and said he's made a mistake. People also have got to stop throwing things on the pitch. I was around Didier at the time and I don't know how many coins there were around. We've seen referees getting hit, too, so I think people have to take responsibility as a group. Didier has to take responsibility as an individual. But if Didier gets banned, are fans going to do this more to provoke people? Who knows?"
There has also been some debate over Ballack's future at Chelsea although it is understood that the club has now exercised a one-year option on the midfielder's contract, which means they do not have to discuss the 32-year-old's deal until 2010. He is contracted until the summer of that year, when he will be approaching 34. The German wants a one-year extension and has already declared that he is keen to end his career at Stamford Bridge.