Suarez enjoys support ahead of racism ruling

Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy has paid tribute to Luis Suarez as the Football Association (FA) prepares to deliver a verdict on the striker over alleged racist slurs.

More than two months after Manchester United defender Patrice Evra made the allegations during a 1-1 draw at Anfield on October 15, the FA could publicise its decision before Liverpool’s game at Wigan on Wednesday, with Suarez facing a ban and a fine if found guilty of the charge.

A verdict from a three-man disciplinary panel was expected last week but on Friday an FA statement said there wouldn’t be an announcement on a decision “before Tuesday [December 20] at the earliest”.

If Suarez is suspended, it will hit Liverpool hard.

Not only are Kenny Dalglish’s side set to embark on a busy festive programme but Suarez has been in fine form lately.

The Uruguay international followed up his winner in the previous game against Queens Park Rangers by twice hitting the woodwork in Sunday’s 2-0 victory at Aston Villa.

Desperate
“I’ve not seen a forward quite like him ability wise and for luck as well — he constantly either hits the post or bar,” said Liverpool striker Bellamy.

“He could be on a lot more goals than what he is but performance wise is enough for us. The way he goes about his business, he is a credit to us.”

Liverpool has won their last two games without conceding to move to within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

And Bellamy is desperate to ensure the winning run continues at Wigan, who did Liverpool’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League a favour on Saturday by holding Chelsea to a 1-1 draw.

“We’re a good team, there are no doubts about that,” added Wales international Bellamy. “We are part of an incredible football club.

“Fortunately we do have a lot of Liverpool players … who do deserve to play at this club. Touch wood, we will have a very positive season.”

No injury worries
Liverpool had no fresh injury worries after the Villa match.

But Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt could start at the DW Stadium as manager Dalglish considers rotating his squad for the first of five games in 16 days.

Wigan are third from bottom in the table, one point adrift of safety.

But Roberto Martinez’s side go into the game with confidence sky high following their morale-boosting draw with Chelsea where Jordi Gomez hit a late equaliser to dent the Blues’ title aspirations.

Martinez has been impressed with Dalglish’s restoration work at Anfield and labelled his team “the best Liverpool side for years”.

“They have the best defensive record in the league,” said Martinez. “And when you look at their attacking options as well — Suarez, Bellamy, [Andy] Carroll, [Stewart] Downing — they’re a seriously strong side.

‘A lot to achieve’
“I feel they have a lot to achieve. It’s the best Liverpool side I’ve seen for a few years.”

Wigan only avoided relegation on the final day of last season and are five points behind the Christmas target Martinez set his players at the start of this term.

But the Spaniard is refusing to panic — even though Wigan’s next game after Wednesday is away to champions Manchester United on December 26.

“December is a tough month for us when you look at our fixtures,” added Martinez.

“But this is why we’re in the Premier League and we relish these challenges.

“Although we’re behind our points target at the moment we’re realistic in the sense that we’re not even halfway through the season.” — AFP

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