David Moyes' Sunderland selection woes could be set to increase ahead of the club's next Premier League fixture against Tottenham Hotspur on 31 January after Papy Djilobodji was charged by The Football Association (FA) with an alleged act of violent conduct on Monday (23 January).
The charge relates to the 86th minute of Sunderland's 2-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Saturday, when the centre-back appeared to make contact with the face of opposition captain Darren Fletcher while jostling for position at a free-kick. The incident was missed by match officials including referee Craig Pawson but picked up by television cameras.
"Papy Djilobodji has been charged for an alleged act of violent conduct which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video," the FA confirmed in a statement. "The Sunderland defender was involved in an incident with West Bromwich Albion's Darren Fletcher in the 86th minute of the game on Saturday (21 January 2017).
"Off-the-ball incidents which are not seen at the time by the match officials are referred to a panel of three former elite officials. Each panel member will review the video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it a sending-off offence. For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous."
Djilobodji has until 18.00 GMT on Tuesday to respond to the charge. If found guilty, he will face the likely prospect of a four-match ban having previously been sent off for two bookable offences during a 3-0 win over Hull City at the Stadium of Light in November 2016. Such a suspension would see the 28-year-old, who was left out of Senegal's squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, miss the visit of Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham in addition to subsequent top-flight matches against Crystal Palace, Southampton and Everton. He would not be eligible to return until the meeting with Manchester City on 4 March.
While Djilobodji has hardly impressed at Sunderland this season, Moyes would obviously prefer not to be without the former Chelsea defender given his existing lengthy list of absentees that includes Lamine Kone. The latter has yet to play a single minute for the Ivory Coast at Afcon after injury, although he could join club teammate Didier Ndong in making an early return to Wearside if the defending champions fail to beat Morocco in their final Group C clash in Oyem tomorrow.
Wahbi Khazri looks set to remain in Gabon a little longer, however, with Tunisia needing only a draw against minnows Zimbabwe in order to seal their place in the quarter-finals. Sunderland, bottom of the table and three points adrift of safety after their fourth defeat in five matches, also have mounting injuries with Jason Denayer and Victor Anichebe now possibly set to join Jordan Pickford, Javier Manquillo, Paddy McNair, Jan Kirchhoff, Lynden Gooch, Lee Cattermole and Duncan Watmore on the sidelines.