The English Football Association set the stage for another disciplinary showdown with Chelsea when they announced they would push for a longer ban for Eden Hazard than the statutory three games for the red card he received over the ballboy incident on Wednesday.
The FA said that a three-match ban for Hazard's dismissal against Swansea, in which he kicked at a ballboy, was "clearly insufficient" and an independent regulatory commission will decide next week the suspension that the player must serve.
The club would have accepted the three-game ban. They are likely to appeal against any additional games.
Hazard will start his ban tomorrow when his club face Brentford in the fourth round of the FA Cup at a time when manager Rafa Benitez believes his squad is too light on numbers to carry the club through a heavy period of fixtures.
"We do not have too many players and we are playing too many games," Benitez said. "We have played nine games in a month, we have two players at the African Nations, we do not have too many bodies, we have to change players and it will be another approach."
Charged by the FA with 'violent conduct', Hazard (22) will potentially miss up to five games for Chelsea for the incident in the League Cup semi-final second leg at the Liberty Stadium. A ban of that length would take him up to the fifth round of the FA Cup, providing Chelsea beat Brentford. The sixth game is the league fixture at Manchester City.
Hazard will not be required to give evidence at the independent commission hearing next week.
Instead, there will be written and video submissions by the FA and Chelsea, with the latter hoping that a new camera angle from Sky Sports will help their cause. It appears to show Hazard making contact with the ball, which emerges from under the ballboy.
Brentford v Chelsea,
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