Chelsea 'monkey' claim against Clattenburg 'close to collapse'
Fears that ref's accent confused Brazilian players who reported racial slur against Mikel
CHELSEA AND Manchester United come face-to-face for the second time in four days this evening when they meet in the Capital One Cup as the fall-out from their last meeting rumbles on.
Referee Mark Clattenburg, who sent off two Chelsea players during the Blues' 3-2 league defeat on Sunday, was accused of using "inappropriate" language including racial slurs after the game, and The Sun has now confirmed that Chelsea believe he called midfielder Jon Obi Mikel a "monkey".
The Daily Mail says that the allegation was made not by Mikel, but by Brazilian team mates David Luiz and Ramires.
"David Luiz speaks very good English, Ramires less so. They are both adamant they heard the slur, although Clattenburg denies the claims and is supported by his two assistants," says the paper.
The Mail raises the possibility that Clattenburg's strong North East accent could be a factor. It suggests that the referee may have said "shut up Mikel" rather than "shut up, monkey".
The club are said to be hugely worried that the allegations may prove unfounded. In a separate article the Mail claims: "Chelsea's race case against Mark Clattenburg is in danger of collapsing after it emerged that the club have employed independent lawyers to investigate the claims of their players.
"Chelsea are fearful of the backlash if the players have misheard or misjudged Clattenburg's conversations during the stormy clash against United.
Chelsea will proceed with the case against the referee only if they are satisfied the claims made by the players after the game will stand up to the FA's burden of proof."
The Daily Telegraph reports that the programme for tonight's game at Stamford Bridge will carry a "special message" reminding fans of their responsibilities after the ugly scenes towards the end of the game on Sunday.
Lee Mason will be the man officiating tonight's clash and United manager Alex Ferguson as already wished him "good luck".