Cup a reprieve for Liverpool, City

BY Jamie Trecker • January 10, 2012

There’s no rest for the weary: Manchester City must regroup from a shattering FA Cup defeat to arch-rivals United to now face Liverpool in the other Cup competition.

It’s been a rough week for City, but arguably none more trying than the one endured by Liverpool. That club’s ham-handed handling of the Luis Suarez racism case and the subsequent racial abuse from the stands that was leveled at an Oldham player in Friday’s FA Cup tie have storm clouds circling over Anfield.

Few are pleased with how the club handled the Suarez case. In the face of a comprehensive and compelling FA report, the team responded with angry denials and an attack on both the FA and Suarez’ accuser, Patrice Evra. That, in turn, brought multiple denunciations from anti-racism groups and sustained attacks on manager Kenny Dalgish’s handling of the matter.

Matters worsened Friday when Oldham’s Tom Adeyemi was racially abused by Liverpool fans during their club’s FA Cup fixture. Those fans were reported to be wearing shirts with Luis Suarez’ image on them – nearly the same shirts that Dalglish had his players trot out in in a widely-criticized display of support for his player.

The matter has forced the club to go on the defensive, releasing two statements to its website Monday.

The first was a video that showed minority Liverpool owner LeBron James taking questions from young fans. In the second, Dalglish wrote a long defense of the club’s record against discrimination: “We would never have [our] support if we were in any way, shape or form prejudiced or discriminatory against any one part of the community.”

Yet Dalglish did not back off from his decision to have his men wear those infamous shirts, saying, “The players showed support for Luis which was fantastic, but then some people interpreted that wrongly as the players saying they're not interested in the fight against racism. That is totally and utterly rubbish….We don't want racism anywhere near football and certainly not anywhere near this football club.”

Dalglish’s words are welcome – but they will not stop the storm. Tuesday, MPs announced they would be investigating the matter. Certainly, as Friday’s incident showed, the actions the club took in defense of Suarez have had awful and unforeseen consequences. It feels like there may be more yet to come.

One other ugly incident to note: Midfielder Stewart Downing was arrested Sunday on suspicion of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. It is unclear if he will take part in Wednesday’s game.

But what about the game? It hasn't been entirely pushed to the background, especially since the Carling Cup offers a chance for a trophy that could be welcome to both sets of supporters.

City will be without some key players for the meeting — David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli look to be watching from the touchline — but the biggest blow may be the suspension of Vincent Kompany. The captain was sent off against Manchester United in the FA Cup this weekend, a decision most observers felt was harsh. Tuesday, the FA upheld the red card, sidelining him for four games.

It may seem laughable that a club that lost close to $400 million last year — largely due to its huge spending on talent — is suffering a player shortage, but manager Roberto Mancini insists his squad is too small and is pushing the club to spend more money for reinforcements. Few will have any truck with this: City, of course, have several high-profile players out on loan, including Emmanuel Adebayor at Tottenham, and a certain striker walking on golf courses in Argentina.

Even “shorthanded,” City look to have the advantage. They hammered the Reds 3-0 in their recent league match and have only lost once in the clubs' last seven meetings.

Liverpool should get a full game out of the inspirational Steven Gerrard, but midfield hasn’t been the problem - scoring has. Andy Carroll has been a major flop and without Suarez, they have been sorely lacking a cutting edge up top.


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