Members of the FA will meet today to watch the Javier Mascherano incident from Liverpool's Sunday visit to Manchester United. The Argentine midfielder was handed his second yellow card in the first half by Referee Steve Bennett after he protested a yellow card given to Fernando Torres.
In light of recent episodes of disrespect towards referees, Liverpool fear that the FA may make an example out of Mascherano and his behavior. Ashley Cole exhibited disrespectful behavior towards referee Mike Riley in Chelsea's match against Tottenham last week and Watford captain John Eustace had an incident earlier in March.
The Merseysiders are expecting Mascherano to be handed a charge of misconduct and a possible three-match total suspension under Rule E3.
Mascherano received his first yellow card in the 11th minute. In the 44th minute, Bennett flashed Torres a yellow and Mascherano jogged towards him to question the call. Javier still pleads innocent, claiming he "asked the referee what was happening."
"I did not swear, I was not aggressive and I did not confront him. When he showed me the second yellow card and sent me off I could not believe it."
While Mascherano had ample room to plead his innocence until that point, his following behavior stripped him of receiving much sympathy. He relentlessly made attempts to get to Bennett, held back by teammates and eventually Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez himself.
Rafa later reported that he had to tell Mascherano, "Listen, it's finished."
Steve Bennett reported that Mascherano was aggressive after receiving the card and failed "to leave the field in a timely manner". Liverpool said he was off the field within 30 seconds.
Yesterday, the FA suspended John Eustace an extra match and fined him £1,500 for taking 63 seconds to leave the pitch after being sent off verse Stoke earlier this month.
Rafa told Liverpoolfc.tv that wanted to sit down with referees chief Keith Hackett to find a 'solution' to Sunday's controversy. There has been no report as to whether this meeting has happened.
It is unlikely that the FA will critique anything that Steve Bennett did. Doing so would only further disrespect for referees and their judgment. We will have our question answered about the length of Mascherano's suspension, but we will be left to continue the discussion on our other questions:
Did Javier deserve the second yellow card? Was he really just asking a question? In light of recent episodes of disrespect towards referees, was Mascherano made a patsy by Bennett to make a point? Was there a second gunman in the grassy knoll?
Whatever happens to Mascherano today, and whatever we think about referees and their recent decisions, we can be certain that players will think twice before confronting refs in a disrespectful manner.