Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas is on the verge of a two-game suspension after picking up his ninth yellow card of the season in Wednesday night's 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Upton Park.
The London Evening Standard reports how the 27-year-old will now be walking a tightrope until the Football Association's next disciplinary deadline on April 12 when all previous bookings are wiped clean, as he looks to avoid reaching the dreaded double figure landmark.
With four Premier League matches still to play against Southampton, Hull City, Stoke City and Queens Park Rangers between now and then, there's still plenty of time for Fabregas to be cautioned, and as a result face an automatic ban.
The worst case scenario is that the Spain international is booked in the final game at Loftus Road, which would make him unavailable for forthcoming encounters against Manchester United and Arsenal - two outings that could potentially define the Blues' season.
Jose Mourinho will be hoping to avoid that scenario, particularly as the £27 million signing from Barcelona last summer has been one of Chelsea's most important players in 2014/15, contributing an impressive 15 assists in England's top-flight so far.
In the three Premier League games where Fabregas has been absent, Chelsea's passing game has noticeably suffered, particularly in January's 1-1 draw with reigning champions - and this year's title rivals - Manchester City.
A possible workaround would be if Fabregas picked up a 'tactical booking' against Saints at Stamford Bridge next Sunday, which would in turn rule him out of ties versus the Tigers and the Potters; lesser opposition that Mourinho's side could cope better without the influential playmaker.
Of course, getting cautioned on purpose is a breach of FA rules, but the reality is there is no way of really proving whether or not a mistimed challenge or act of dissent was actually premeditated.
Fabregas would then return in time for the west London derby against Chris Ramsay's Rs, and only a straight red card in that game would mean he was unable to play against the Red Devils and the clash against the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium.
Given the former Arsenal captain's ties to the north London club, he'll be desperate to feature when Chelsea take on Arsene Wenger's charges on April 26, and that will probably be playing on Fabregas' mind over the next few games.
Every game between now and the end of the season is obviously important, with the Blues looking to win as many of their remaining 11 matches as possible in a bid to lift their first domestic title for five years. But, the reality is that certain fixtures hold more importance to certain individuals, so don't be surprised to see Fabregas in the book in his next domestic outing.
Chelsea fans: How big a blow would losing Cesc Fabregas for games against Manchester United and Arsenal be? Do you think he should look to get a tactical booking next weekend? Share your thoughts below…
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