Manchester City manager Stuart Pearce fears midfielder Joey Barton is becoming the victim of a 'witch hunt'.
Barton made his England debut earlier in the week against Spain
Barton could face action from the Football Association over his late tackle on Pedro Mendes during City's 2-1 defeat at Portsmouth on Saturday.
"Perhaps because Joey made his debut for England last week, there is a bit of a witch hunt going on," Pearce said.
City have already had to deny claims that Barton made an offensive gesture at Fratton Park at the final whistle.
Mendes had to be carried off following Barton's challenge.
The clamour after the game led me to think that something serious must have happened but I have viewed it again and the call for punishment is not fitting of the crime
The tackle so incensed Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp that he faces an FA charge because of the ferocity of his complaint to referee Mike Dean.
Redknapp, though, will be relieved that an initial scan on Mendes' Achilles has since showed bad bruising of the tendons, rather than a more serious injury.
And Pompey are optimistic that Mendes will be fit to face Blackburn a week on Sunday.
Pearce defended Barton, saying: "Yes, he has caught Mendes on the back of his heel but he hasn't meant to do it.
"The clamour after the game led me to think that something serious must have happened but I have viewed it again and the call for punishment is not fitting of the crime.
"It is very harsh to turn around and suggest he has intentionally gone and done Pedro."
And City say the 24-year-old was not involved in any incident after the game either.
"The club has not received a complaint regarding Joey Barton's behaviour," said City spokesman Paul Tyrrell.
Hampshire Police will tell the Football Association of an alleged incident involving an unnamed City player but will not hold their own investigation.
The police will instead be liaising with the FA after being alerted by one of their officers.
Midfielder Barton drew the ire of home fans after an aggressive challenge from behind on Mendes just before the break.
He caught the Pompey man on the back of his ankle and was jeered through to the final whistle.
Tyrrell added: "If we get a complaint it will be robustly defended by the club as our own officials were close to the player as he went to thank our fans for their support.
"He made no offensive gesture."
Having drawn level in the second half, City went down to an 81st-minute Kanu goal that leaves them 16th in the Premiership.