Mikel John Obi and Ramires will shake hands with Mark Clattenburg if they are selected for Chelsea's game with Swansea City on Sunday as the referee makes his first return to Stamford Bridge since last autumn's racism row.
Clattenburg was accused of using "inappropriate language" towards Mikel during Manchester United's 3-2 victory in south-west London on 28 October, with Chelsea feeling duty bound to report the allegation in good faith given Ramires's belief he had heard the official directing a racial slur at his team-mate. The referee was omitted from the Professional Game Match Officials' selection process for four weekends while the Football Association conducted an inquiry into the incident, with the body eventually clearing him of any wrongdoing.
The Metropolitan police also dropped their own inquiry and Chelsea issued a statement expressing regret at the "intense media scrutiny" to which Clattenburg had been subjected as a result of the allegations. "To know you were innocent of something, but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career, was truly frightening," said the referee, who returned to the roster in late November, with the club stressing at the time that they would be happy for him to officiate at Stamford Bridge again in the future.
Mikel is expected to start against Swansea – Ramires played in Basel on Thursday and may drop to the bench as Rafael Benítez juggles his options – but the club do not anticipate any issues in the lineup with either player as they greet the match officials before kick-off. "I think John will shake his hand," Benítez said. "I don't see any problem. It is a normal situation and it will be fine. They are professionals and they know their job, so I don't see any different situations to any other referee."
Asked if he would take the particular scenario into account when selecting his side for the game, the interim manager added: "It will make no difference in terms of team selection and, hopefully, everyone will forget [about it] and we just concentrate on the football game."
Chelsea, who would find themselves outside the Champions League qualification places at kick-off if Tottenham Hotspur win at Wigan Athleticon Saturday, have already succumbed to Swansea at Stamford Bridge this season after Michael Laudrup's side won 2-0 in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final with goals from Michu and Danny Graham. In the goalless return, Eden Hazard, outstanding in Switzerland on Thursday, was dismissed late on after clashing with a ball-boy at the Liberty Stadium as the Welsh club smoothed their passage to Wembley.
"That was a bad image," said Benítez of the incident with the ball-boy. "Everyone could see what had happened, but you cannot change things and you have to move forward. We lost the player for three games when he was doing well. But Eden is a special talent, a player who can do this or that, turn and go at defenders, and can be effective.
"People say: 'Oh, you lost the semi-final,' but we deserved to score at home, had three or four chances and then made individual mistakes at the other end. I still don't think the performance was as bad as the result. Hopefully we can do well this time around."
Laudrup said: "The two semi-finals were special games because of their importance to the club, but we will play a team who it seems are almost playing every day at the moment."