While the rest of the footballing world will focus on the ‘Patrice Evra versus Luis Suarez’ element to the upcoming crunch clash between arch-rivals Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford this weekend, the visitors will quietly be hoping to dent the Red Devils’ Premier League title hopes.
United have already faced Liverpool twice this season, with the league clash at Anfield ending 1-1 back in October, while the more recent FA Cup fixture at the same venue ended 2-1 to the home side. Surprisingly, the last time Sir Alex’s side actually beat Liverpool was more than a year ago, when Kenny Dalglish saw his Reds crash out of the FA Cup in what was his first game in charge on his return to the dugout.
But those cup ties between the two sides will count for nothing this weekend, with valuable Premier League points at stake. Liverpool could climb up to fifth place in the table with a win over United, though should the result go in the hosts’ favour, then they would jump into top spot, albeit briefly. Therefore, a lot is at stake for both managers.
Unfortunately, all eyes will be on Evra and Suarez. The Uruguayan striker, who recently returned from an eight match ban for racially abusing Evra, is likely to be jeered throughout the game by the Old Trafford crowd. Indeed, Evra was similarly booed when he played at Anfield just a couple of weeks ago. There will also be significant interest during the usual pre-match routine, with many fans eager to see whether the two men shake hands before the game.
Speaking about the upcoming fixture, Dalglish said: “I’m sure people will want to talk about Luis Suarez, but he accepted his ban, served his suspension and returned against Spurs on Monday. It’s time for all of us to draw a line under what happened and move forward. People are already speculating on the pre-match ceremony, but from Luis’s point of view we have spoken to him and I know he will shake the hand of Patrice Evra and the other Manchester United players before the game.”
Whether Evra will shake Suarez’s hand or not remains to be seen, but in truth, the battle between the two men is insignificant. Three huge Premier League points are at stake and while Suarez will be hoping to respond to the Old Trafford crowd with a goal, beating United and denting their title hopes is far more important and would provide the fans with greater satisfaction.
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