Liverpool's determination to seek peace talks with Manchester United strengthened last night after the clubs were paired in an FA Cup fourth round draw which also pitted QPR against Chelsea – the match-up which embroiled England captain John Terry in his own racism row with Anton Ferdinand.
The draw, which produced the two matches the Football Association would have been dreading, preserves the prospect of Luis Suarez making his comeback against Sir Alex Ferguson's side, should the north-west tie go to a replay. The Uruguayan had been due to complete his eight-game ban for directing the word "negro" at United's Patrice Evra in time to face Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield, nine days after the Cup tie, and had already been facing the prospect of Liverpool's trip to Old Trafford in the League being his first away game after the ban.
But if the Anfield Cup tie goes to a replay, Suarez could face United twice in three or four days upon his return. Kenny Dalglish, whose side lost in the third round to United last season, is adamant Suarez must not be kept out of the Premier League game and his indignation about the striker's innocence suggests he would want to throw him into a Cup replay, too.
Dalglish had already feared that the Suarez-Evra episode could bring some of the worst abuse ever visited upon a Liverpool player and his club have been preparing to seek United's help to limit it. But Ferguson dismissed the idea in his press conference on Friday. "It is nice of them to do it through the press," he said. "You would have thought they would come to Manchester United first. I do not see why there is any need for it. I have nothing to say about it."
With both managers entrenched in defences of their players, Greater Manchester Police may remind the managers of their responsibilities not to inflame the situation in their pre-match comments.
The scope for vitriol in west London is just as great with QPR and Chelsea to meet at the Loftus Road ground where Terry was accused of racist abuse in the 23 October League match. QPR won 1-0.
Elsewhere in the draw, Arsenal will earn a home tie with Aston Villa if they manage to beat Leeds at the Emirates tonight. Two other all-Premier League games, aside from the one at Anfield, are guaranteed; Everton at home to Fulham and Norwich's trip to West Bromwich Albion.
Swindon's reward for knocking out Wigan is to face the winners of the replay between Nottingham Forest and Leicester City, while League Two Crawley must go to Hull.
Harry Redknapp's Tottenham make the short journey to Watford and there is an intriguing Wear-Tees derby with Middlesbrough heading to the Stadium of Light to take on Martin O'Neill's Sunderland.
FOURTH ROUND DRAW
Brighton/Wrexham v Newcastle
Sunderland v Middlesbrough
Dag & Red/Millwall v Southampton
Hull City v Crawley Town
MK Dons/QPR v Chelsea
West Bromwich v Norwich City
Blackpool v Sheffield Wednesday
Arsenal/Leeds v Aston Villa
Stevenage v Notts County
Watford v Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool v Manchester Utd
Derby County v Stoke City
Everton v Fulham
Macclesfield/Bolton v Swansea
Sheffield Utd v Birmingham/Wolves
Nottingham Forest/Leicester City v Swindon Town
*Ties to be played over the weekend of 28/29 January
Tues 17 Jan Millwall v Dag & Red, Wolves v Birmingham, QPR v MK Dons, Wrexham v Brighton, Bolton v Macclesfield
Wed 18 Jan Leicester v Nott'm ForReuse content