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Manchester return to Moscow with knockout in sight

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Manchester return to Moscow with knockout in sight

MOSCOW (AFP) – Manchester United return to the scene of their 2008 Champions League final victory over Chelsea looking for a win over CSKA Moscow that will virtually ensure their passage to the knockout stages of this season’s competition.

Despite some mixed displays in the Premier League this season, the English champions have looked assured on the European stage so far, recording wins over Besiktas, in Turkey, and German champions Wolfsburg at Old Trafford.

Another three points at the Luzhniki Stadium — where John Terry’s slip and penalty miss in the decisive shootout effectively gifted United the third European Cup triumph in the club’s history — would put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side firmly in control of group B.

History, however, suggests that will not be a straightforward affair. United have never won in Russia while CSKA, now managed by the former Sevilla, Tottenham and Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos, have won their last six European ties at home.

CSKA were far from impressive in a 1-1 draw at minnows Nalchik in the Russian league at the weekend and will be missing Marc Gonzalez, who suffered a serious ankle injury on international duty with Chile last week, while Brazilian striker Guilherme is a major doubt.

United’s absentees are more significant with Wayne Rooney, who is still struggling to recover from a calf problem, and Ryan Giggs, who has been outstanding this season, both left at home in order to ensure they are fully rested for Sunday’s Premier League showdown with Liverpool at Anfield.

South Korean midfielder Park Ji-Sung, Scotland captain Darren Fletcher and France left-back Patrice Evra have also missed the trip through injury.

But Ferguson has Nemanja Vidic, once a star with CSKA’s great rivals Spartak Moscow, back from injury and could opt to pair the Serbia centreback with Jonny Evans at the expense of Rio Ferdinand.

The United manager admitted last week that Ferdinand’s current lack of form was causing him concern, while he has been unstinting in his praise for the blossoming talent of Northern Ireland’s Evans, who finally feels he is beginning to find his feet in the United first team.

“Last season was a decent one for me but I was playing within myself a bit,” said the 21-year-old.

“Because it was my first real season in the team I just stuck to the defending side of things. It was a conscious decision to play it safe and make sure I wasn’t at fault for any goals, I just generally wanted to concentrate on defending above all else.

“This year I need to try and get on the ball and express myself a bit more.

“I am not saying I will be trying to dribble all the way through the opposition from now on, just that I need to be a bit more outgoing on the pitch and a bit more commanding.”

Despite his current form, Evans expects that he will have to serve some more time on the bench this season and he does not read too much into the lavish praise he has received from Ferguson.

“The manager likes to give the players little boosts sometimes,” Evans said.

“He is going to have to leave me out at times during the season and he can say things that make you feel good while he is leaving you out.

“It is nice that he is saying those things and if he is thinking that way it shows that I am doing something right. That’s good because Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are unbelievable players.”

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Liverpool decide against Suarez appeal in race abuse ban

 Liverpool will not be appealing the eight-game ban for their Uruguay international striker Luis Suarez, the English Premier League club said Tuesday.

Suarez received the suspension and a $62,000 fine for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra in a match in October.
Their decision follows the weekend release by the English Football Association (FA) of the findings of its Independent Regulatory Commission.
A detailed 115-page report concluded that Suarez’s evidence was “unreliable” and “inconsistent”, revealing that he had called Evra a “negro” no fewer than seven times in a heated exchange.
Liverpool continued to defend Suarez in a lengthy statement on its official website, claiming the FA had constructed a “highly subjective” case against him, which was “ultimately unsubstantiated.”

Suarez, who joined Liverpool from Dutch side Ajax last season, also protested his innocence in a statement.

“Never, I repeat, never, have I had any racial problem with a team mate or individual who was of a different race or color to mine. Never,” it read.He added: “In my country, ‘negro’ is a word we use commonly, a word which doesn’t show any lack of respect and is even less so a form of racist abuse. Based on this, everything which has been said so far is totally false.”

Suarez’s ban will begin immediately, meaning he will miss Tuesday night’s clash against EPL leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

“I do feel sorry for the fans and for my team mates whom I will not be able to help during the next month. It will be a very difficult time for me,” he said.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and his players wore Suarez t-shirts in the warm-up before their match
against Wigan last month, but ultimately the club decided not to prolong the affair.
FA: Suarez evidence ‘unreliable’
“It is time to put the Luis Suarez matter to rest and for all of us, going forward, to work together to stamp out racism in every form both inside and outside the sport,” the statement said.
His absence from the Liverpool line-up will be keenly felt during a critical period as they chase a Champions League place.
Suarez will also miss their League Cup semifinal tie against Manchester City as Dalglish bids to win his first silverware since taking charge last season.

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Man City too good for Liverpool

Man City too good for Liverpool

Manchester City recovered from their shock defeat at Sunderland and opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable victory over Liverpool.
Roberto Mancini’s side faced a test of character and resilience with a swift turnaround to play again only 48 hours after the loss at the Stadium of Light – and they passed the examination impressively.
Liverpool were denied striker Luis Suarez’s potency as they decided not to appeal against the eight-game ban handed down after the Football Association found the Uruguayan guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.And they sorely missed Suarez’s menace as they enjoyed plenty of possession but never threatened to turn it into tangible reward.
Mancini incredulous at Man City fixtures
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina’s error gifted Sergio Aguero an early goal and Yaya Toure rose to head home David Silva’s corner for a second before the break.
The only blot on City’s night came when Gareth Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, which means he misses Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie against Manchester United, but they sealed the win when James Milner scored from the spot after Martin Skrtel fouled Yaya Toure.

It gave City the advantage over closest rivals United before their visit to Newcastle on Wednesday and enabled them to regain momentum after a goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion and the 1-0 reverse at Sunderland.

Liverpool’s efforts lacked punch despite the vast expense lavished on their forward line by manager Kenny Dalglish and they ended well beaten.

Stewart Downing was thwarted by Joe Hart’s crucial early block from Jordan Henderson’s fine pass before Reina gifted City their opening goal.Aguero’s shot was testing in the stormy conditions but the Spaniard made the basic error of failing to get his body behind the ball and the 20-yard shot dipped underneath him to relieve City’s early nerves.

The Argentine then lifted a shot just over before Edin Dzeko’s effort took a heavy deflection off Glen Johnson and flew inches wide with the anxious Reina totally wrong-footed.

As Liverpool appeared to be getting a foothold in proceedings, the hosts struck again 12 minutes before the interval.

Reina made amends for his earlier error by turning Vincent Kompany’s header over the top, but when Silva returned the resulting corner Yaya Toure got ahead of Johnson to head high past the the visiting keeper.

Kompany made a vital intervention at the other end to ensure City protected their two-goal lead until half-time, throwing himself bravely in front of Dirk Kuyt’s shot as the Dutchman moved to turn in Andy Carroll’s header.Once more the Reds saw plenty of the ball after the restart, but their lack of threat prompted Dalglish to make a double change just before the hour mark, sending on Steven Gerrard and former Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy for the disappointing Charlie Adam and Kuyt.

They failed to make any serious inroads into the home defence, although they were given brief hope when Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, an innocuous block on Daniel Agger, with 17 minutes left.
If they did have any hopes of a revival, they were snuffed out two minutes later when referee Mike Jones – a late replacement for Andre Marriner, who refereed the match in which Suarez had his flashpoint with Evra in October – pointed to the spot after Skrtel tangled with Yaya Toure.

After Mancini had failed in demands to have Skrtel sent off by waving an imaginary red card, Milner converted the penalty emphatically.
Substitute Adam Johnson struck the post with a curling effort as City pressed again, but matters had already been settled well before.
Liverpool kept going and tested City keeper Hart with some late efforts from Gerrard and Downing, but he was more than equal to the task on a bitterly disappointing night for Dalglish’s side.

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