Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou admits it will be a massive blow to lose midfielder Michael Essien for three games following his red card against Fulham on Wednesday night.
Essien, who headed the matchwinner on the half-hour to give Chelsea a 1-0 win, was dismissed by referee Martin Atkinson in the final minute of injury time for a two-footed lunge on Fulham striker Clint Dempsey.
"I don't think it was intentional because he is not the kind of player to do that," declared Kalou. "He's maybe hard sometimes but it's his game."
He added: "He's very strong with the ball and sometimes it may look very aggressive. It will be a blow to lose him for three games. He played well against Fulham and brings a lot of quality to the team."
Coach Carlo Ancelotti maintains that Essien's tackle was not dangerous and the club are currently considering whether to appeal against the dismissal.
Essien's red card took the gloss off a fine win for the Blues. The victory, achieved without injured defender Alex and striker Nicolas Anelka, put them four points clear at the top after Manchester United were held to a goalless draw at Eastlands.
"It was good to get the confidence back," added Kalou. "It was a tough game against Liverpool and it was very important to bounce back against Fulham.
"We won the Barclays Premier League last season and every team tries to beat us. It's nice to have that gap but four points is nothing.
"We have to keep working hard and focus on ourselves. We must play our game and not focus too much on the gap over the other teams because we know how it can go in the League. If we lose one game, Manchester United can be close again."
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