Suarez ready to sign off on a high
LUIS SUAREZ will be available for Liverpool's Premier League match at Manchester City tonight, providing his club make no pre-match decision to accept his eight-game ban.
Suarez prepared as usual with the rest of Kenny Dalglish's squad, as the English Football Association awaits confirmation of whether the Merseyside club intend to appeal against the verdict of the Patrice Evra case.
The English FA reopens for business today following the bank holiday weekend.
The club's American owners have been weighing up whether to challenge the Uruguayan's punishment. If they alert the FA that they have accepted the conclusions, following publication of the written verdict, Suarez's suspension will start immediately.
Liverpool have until January 13 to make that decision. Should Suarez feature against Roberto Mancini's side, missing the next eight games would rule him out until the Merseyside derby on February 25, unless Liverpool overcome Oldham in the FA Cup third round.
If the ban is accepted after tonight's game, and Liverpool progress in the Cup, Suarez would return against Manchester United on February 11.
Liverpool's principal owner, John W Henry, and chairman Tom Werner have been analysing the written report and deciding the best option for the club. They are under severe pressure given the serious criticism of Liverpool.
They must assess whether the hitherto forthright support for Suarez can be sustained given the inconsistencies in evidence their own lawyers acknowledged during the hearing of the Independent Regulatory Commission. For Dalglish, it is a feature of his second reign at the club that no sooner has one of his world class players returned, Steven Gerrard, he is certain to lose another in the near future.
A remarkable statistic of the last 12 months, since Suarez and record signing Andy Carroll joined Liverpool, is the duo and Gerrard have spent just 69 minutes on the pitch together.
Gerrard's return against Newcastle last Friday promised richer tidings for Carroll in 2012, but if all three play tonight their combination is sure to be brief given the imminent ban for Suárez.
Dalglish believes Liverpool's progress without having all his big guns available is a cause for optimism.
"It shows we're a work in progress," said Dalglish. "Andy was injured when he came, Stevie's been injured two or three times, and Luis was suspended for the night against Newcastle. But I've always said it is not about who isn't playing.
"I wouldn't want to be disrespectful to any player we've got, so if you're not available it is not worthwhile worrying about it.
"It is those who are available who are almost most important.
"The players we have in the squad are a real credit to the football club and they know when someone is not available they have to impress themselves and that's what they've all been doing."