Posted 1 year ago on Jan. 28, 2012, 7:40 a.m. EST by marguritewimberley
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Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is keen for the "sideshow'' which has developed around the fringes of tomorrow's game against Manchester United to remain in the background.
While an FA Cup fourth-round tie between England's two most decorated clubs who share such a bitter rivalry would be enough to crank up the tension, a new element has been introduced in recent months.
The two sets of supporters have taken opposite stances in the wake of Reds striker Luis Suarez's eight-match suspension after being found guilty of racially abusing United's Patrice Evra when the two sides met at Anfield in October.
That incident stoked the simmering feud which exists between groups of rival fans and, with the case being played out in the full glare of the media - many of whom criticised Liverpool for their defence of Suarez - the issue has rarely been out of the headlines in three months.
The Uruguay international still has two matches of his ban to serve so will not be on the pitch tomorrow - although he is likely to be in the directors' box - but it is anticipated Evra will play.
But Dalglish insisted the focus had to be on football and everyone involved, from the pitch to the stands, had to behave.
"We want to concentrate on going out and playing football and any other sideshow is purely that, it is just a sideshow,'' the Scot said.
"Everyone has a responsibility to uphold the names of their respective club and anyone who reports or comments on the game also has the responsibility to make sure they are not trying to incite trouble.
"But it is not only the fans who have to behave themselves; we have a responsibility to behave - but that is the case every time.
"I am sure everyone will be determined to make sure what's done has been done and whatever your grievance is keep it to yourself and let's get on with the game.''
Much has been done to lessen the potential for problems at Anfield.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson sent a letter to ticket holders appealing for them to work with the stewards in the stadium after previous encounters had led to their allocation being cut because of persistent standing in gangways.
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre and captain Steven Gerrard have both stressed the focus has to be on football and Merseyside Police earlier this week issued their own guidance, insisting they would be: "Firm, fair and friendly but take action where necessary against those individuals who may seek to cause problems or misbehave.''
Midfielder Jay Spearing could be recalled to Liverpool's squad after missing three matches with a hamstring injury.
Ferguson has stayed clear of the entire row since his initial confirmation that United would back Evra in whatever action he chose to take.
However, the Scot feels now is the time to try and ensure all the talk is about the game, rather than the obvious issues surrounding it.
"It is a massive game for both clubs,'' he said.
"There is a tremendous profile on it and will be interest throughout the country.
"As Steven Gerrard said, there is a responsibility on the players to behave properly. That is what I expect my players to do.
"Both sets of fans have got to make sure we are talking about the game and nothing else.''
Ferguson flatly refused to speak directly about Evra, or whether he would play.
However, assistant Mike Phelan has already said the stand-in United skipper would be available for selection, which given Ferguson's massive injury list, is hardly a surprise.
Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones (both ankle) and Rio Ferdinand (back) are amongst those who are thought to be causing concern.
Nani (foot) is expected to miss out, although there has been no official update on the winger's fitness since he limped out of last Sunday's win at Arsenal.