Jonny Evans is expected to discover today whether he will be suspended for six matches for spitting at Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse, after the Manchester United defender last night denied a Football Association charge in relation to the incident.
Having been charged by the FA on Thursday as a result of the clash with Cisse during the first half of United's 1-0 victory at St James' Park 24 hours earlier, the Northern Ireland international spent yesterday considering his position before choosing to contest the charge, rather than accept the mandatory six-match ban.
Evans will miss United's FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal as well as subsequent Premier League games against Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Chelsea if an independent commission, which is expected to report today after beginning its deliberations last night, upholds the charge.
Although the prospect of being sidelined until the trip to Everton on April 26 was a factor in the 27-year-old's decision to fight the case, it is understood that the defender's driving motivation was a determination to avoid the stigma of being regarded as a player who spits at opponents - an accusation he robustly denied when issuing a statement prior to being charged.
"I would like to make it clear that I did not spit at Papiss Cisse," Evans said in his statement. "I was totally unaware of any spitting incident and had assumed that the issue at the time was with the challenge and his attempted retaliation to the tackle from the floor.
"During the game Papiss Cisse and I spoke about the incident and it is clear by my reaction in the television footage that I was totally surprised by any suggestion of spitting.
"It is not in my character or in my nature to spit at anybody nor is it something I have ever done or would ever do. It is certainly not something that I did."
Cisse's decision to accept an FA charge for the same incident - and also issue an apology for his involvement - is set to lead to the Newcastle forward receiving a seven-match suspension, with the additional game being applied as a result of a sending-off earlier this season.
Evans will not be present when the independent commission considers his appeal, but the player's legal advisers are expected to submit video footage supporting his position.
Meanwhile, Stoke City forward Jon Walters will not face sanction by the FA after claiming he would take physical retribution against any opponent who attempted to spit at him during a game.
"As a player you take anything off the ball; pinches and kicks that are meant to wind you up,'' Walters told Talksport radio.
"Little things like that go on in any match. But spitting is pretty low. If it happened to me and someone spat at my face or towards me then I think he'd be eating his supper through a straw that night.
"I wouldn't be that happy. It's the lowest of the low." (© Daily Telegraph, London)