Rodgers hoping for ‘peaceful’ atmosphere
Soccer:Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expects this weekend’s emotionally-charged contest with Manchester United to pass off without crowd problems. The Premier League encounter at Anfield on Sunday will be Liverpool’s first home match since last week’s publication of an independent panel’s report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
There have been widespread appeals to fans of all clubs to cease tasteless chanting about tragedies to have befallen their rivals. Some Manchester United supporters were accused of chanting about Hillsborough last week while songs about the Munich air disaster have been heard sung by a section of Liverpool fans in the past.
Tensions always run high when the two clubs meet but both clubs have this week been proactive in making clear certain issues transcend sporting rivalry. Rodgers said: “Liverpool-Manchester United games are always very emotional.
“You add to that the findings of the last couple of weeks and it makes it even more emotional. First and foremost, we want to pay tribute to the families, the victims and the survivors. It is our chance to do that. After the fight of the last 23 years, it is the very least we can do.
“There has been dialogue all week, there is respect in terms of the traditions of both clubs. We want this day to be remembered for the right reasons — before the game and the footballing reasons. A lot of work has been done and hopefully Sunday will pass off peacefully and well and we can talk about the tributes and football.”
One unwanted side issue has been speculation over whether Liverpool forward Luis Suarez will shake the hand of United defender Patrice Evra before the game. Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing the Frenchman during the corresponding fixture last October and the pair did not shake hands before the return match at Old Trafford in February.
But Rodgers said: “I think enough has been said and written about that over the last year. This has been ongoing and everything to say about this has been said. There is nothing else I can add other than you just move on.
“Having worked here with Luis Suarez over the course of the last few months — he is a good guy, a good man. Ethically he is very strong, so I am sure there will be no problems at the weekend.” When asked if he was confident the pair would shake hands, Rodgers said: “Very.”
A series of tributes are being planned to commemorate Hillsborough prior to the match, including the releasing of 96 balloons to represent each of the victims. A mosaic will also be displayed by supporters on three sides of the ground.
Kenny Dalglish, manager at the time of the disaster, is also expected to return to Anfield for the first time since his second spell in charge of the club ended in May.