Explosive draw sets bitter rivals up for riveting Anfield clash
The FA Cup draw delivered a series of explosive fourth-round matches yesterday, with a potential repeat of both fixtures from the Premier League this season that have been overshadowed by allegations of racist abuse.
The most eye-catching tie is the return to Anfield for Patrice Evra after his complaint led to the FA banning Luis Suarez for eight games.
John Terry, the England and Chelsea captain, also faces the possibility of returning to Loftus Road to face Queens Park Rangers -- if they overcome MK Dons in a replay -- just days before his court date over allegations that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand during their match in October.
The fourth-round matches are scheduled for the weekend of January 28-29, with Terry -- who denies the allegation -- due to appear at West London Magistrates' Court on February 1.
Yesterday's draw certainly places fresh urgency on Liverpool and Manchester United to build bridges after the bitter fallout from the Evra-Suarez disciplinary hearing.
Suarez's ban means that he will not be available for the tie against Manchester United, although he could return for any replay.
Senior executives at Liverpool and Manchester United are considering clear-the-air talks in an attempt to defuse smouldering tensions. The Premier League has also indicated it could act as a mediator in an effort to bring some civility to a relationship which has reached its lowest ebb over the past three months.
Liverpool and Manchester United are already scheduled to play in the Premier League at Old Trafford on February 11, a match that is likely to be Suarez's second game back.
The draw also represents another major footballing challenge for Manchester United, who were yesterday installed as favourites for the competition after their 3-2 win at Manchester City.
Michael Owen, who began his career at Liverpool, said: "People talk about United always getting lucky cup draws. It couldn't get much tougher. What a game to look forward to."
A tense atmosphere is also guaranteed when Sunderland face Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light. Martin O'Neill, the Sunderland manager, was informed of the draw just minutes after his team had beaten Peterborough 2-0 yesterday.
"There was a big roar in the corridor," he said. "I think it was either the last few fans or perhaps Lee Cattermole (previously at Middlesbrough).
"I genuinely have not needed any reminding of what the FA Cup means in Sunderland -- 1973 gets talked about all the time."
Wrexham have the incentive of a home tie against Newcastle if they can win their replay against Brighton. The reward for Paolo di Canio's Swindon after their excellent win against Wigan is a trip to either Nottingham Forest or Leicester.
There could be as many as six all-Premier League ties, with Everton hosting Fulham, Norwich facing West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa awaiting Arsenal if Arsene Wenger's team defeat Leeds tonight. (© Independent News Service)
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