Luis Suarez to return against Manchester United, follow in Eric Cantona’s footsteps

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When Liverpool and Manchester United square off in the third round of the League Cup on Wednesday, one man, once again, will be dominating all the headlines.

Fate wanted it to be like this.

The draw for the third round was made at random a few weeks ago, and pitted two of world soccer’s biggest rivals together in an unplanned North West derby. What that random cup draw also did, inadvertently, was enable Suarez to announce his return to action (following his 10-game ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic last season) against Liverpool’s biggest rivals and play the hero.

You can’t make this stuff up.

It just so happened that his 10-game ban ran out just in time so he could face Manchester United, at Old Trafford, as he will surely face a cauldron of scathing United fans ready to boo, whistle and curse his every move. But that’s just the way Suarez likes it, it would seem. It simply had to be this way.

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Luis Suarez was banned 10-games for biting Ivanovic.

So, with Liverpool losing to Southampton during the final game of Suarez’ ban, many are now calling for the Uruguayan forward to be instantly recalled to the starting lineup to give the Reds an extra impetus and attacking panache, following their impressive start to the season.

Manager Brendan Rodgers will not have wanted to do that, especially given Suarez’ stance for most of the summer that he wanted to leave Liverpool, despite all the faith and love shown in him by the club and its fans. But with Philippe Coutinho injured, Daniel Sturridge not 100 percent fit, and a cup game against their biggest rivals all converging, it seems as though it’s written in the stars for Suarez to start, score and win the game for Liverpool against United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

But something dawned on me, we’ve seen this script before.

Cast your minds back to 1995, and the similarities between Suarez situation and that of Manchester United’s legendary striker Eric Cantona are eerie.

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Eric Cantona was banned for eight months for kicking a fan in the crowd.

Cantona returned to action in an unplanned cup game, against Liverpool, after his eight-month ban for kung-fu kicking a fan in the stands at Selhurst Park. Like Suarez, Cantona aired his intentions to leave English soccer, but Sir Alex Ferguson persuade him to stay. Then the fiery Frenchman returned to face arch-nemesis Liverpool at Old Trafford in the FA Cup in October 1995, scoring a penalty to snatch United a 2-2 draw.

The similarities between Cantona and Suarez’ situation are incredibly similar, and these two hot-headed genius’ will be mentioned in the same breath by many for years to come.

Should Liverpool decide to start Suarez against Manchester United on Wednesday, will he score and play the hero, just as Cantona did on his return?

If the bizarre similarities that are already inter-twinned between Suarez and Cantona are anything to go by, I wouldn’t bet against it.

Fate may have already sorted this one out.

VIDEO: 10 red cards in abandoned Brazilian game

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This is utterly bonkers.

There are plenty of derbies around the globe which put fans and players on edge, but this was different.

Vitoria and Bahia squared off in the Bahia State derby in Salvador, Brazil and the match was abandoned amid violent scenes on the pitch which saw 10 players sent off.

The first half saw eight yellows dished out, but it all kicked off in the 50th minute after Vinicius scored a penalty kick for Bahia and shall we say danced before appearing to hump mid-air in front of the Vitoria fans. Predictably, that didn’t go down well.

Chaos ensued (see the video clip below) as punches flew in and the referee ended up sending off eight players, which included substitutes nearby, as all hell broke loose behind the Vitoria goal.

After a lengthy break, eventually three Vitoria players were sent off and five from Bahia, but there was to be more drama as two more Vitoria players were sent off in the 79th minute to take their tally of players on the pitch to seven.

That meant the game was abandoned and Bahia will likely be awarded a 3-0 victory.

The next time someone tells you a derby game is particularly “feisty” just show them the video below…


Arsenal sign record-breaking deal with Emirates

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Arsenal have announced a new sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines which will run until 2024 and is said to be worth over $56 million per season.

In a statement released on the club website, they call the five-year extension to the current deal “largest sponsorship deal ever signed by the club” as Emirates will continue to appear on the shirts and training gear of all of the teams.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis revealed the reason behind extending the relationship with Emirates.

“Our shirt partnership is the longest running in the Premier League and one of the longest relationships in world sport. This mutual commitment is testimony to the strength and depth of our unique relationship. Emirates are again demonstrating their great belief in our approach and ambition and their significantly increased investment will help us continue to compete for trophies and bring more success to the club and our fans around the world.”

The Gunners also confirmed that their home stadium will be known as the Emirates Stadium until at least 2028, as per the agreement reached in 2012.

Where do Arsenal rank in terms of shirt sponsorship deals?

Manchester United lead the way with their deal with Chevrolet said to be worth over $74.2 million per year, while Chelsea sit in second with a $56 million per year partnership with Yokohama but the Gunners are now alongside their London rivals.

Manchester City and Tottenham are just behind them when it comes to sponsorship deals, while Liverpool’s relationship with Standard Chartered runs until the end of next season.

Money from Wembley replay will ‘support Rochdale for two or three years’

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Worst-case scenario for Tottenham Hotspur: drawing League One side Rochdale in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash; best-case scenario for the Dale: drawing the Premier League giants and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

For a club the size of Rochdale — 10,200-seat stadium, and never been above the third tier of English soccer — the financial impact of raking in half of the game’s gate receipts “will support the club for the next two or three years,” according to manager Keith Hill — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t know how much it is worth but a lot of money has gone into the new pitch. That was a heavy investment for us. Hopefully the money we make will support the club for the next two or three years. We will cut our cloth accordingly and we won’t be in debt.”

As for Steve Davies’ 93rd-minute equalizer, Hill was adamant that it was nothing short of what they “deserved”:

“It was a feeling of reward, not relief, because the performance deserved at least the opportunity for us to go to Wembley for a replay. I’ve always wanted to do that against a Premier League team and manager. Why not take them on and try to win? It could have been football suicide but I thought we gained their respect and to score the goal we did was tremendous. The players were magnificent.”

Tottenham Hotspur, soccer philanthropists.

Try, try again: Messi seeks 1st goal vs. Chelsea in 9th attempt

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LONDON (AP) As unlikely as it sounds, Lionel Messi is still waiting to score his first goal against Chelsea after drawing a blank in eight previous Champions League matches.

The five-time World Player of the Year is likely to get another chance to break his duck this week and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the past will count for little when Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“I hope we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player,” Conte said ahead of the last-16, first-leg Champions League game. “The most important thing is the present.

“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge. It won’t be easy because we know very well this player, we are talking about one of the best in the world.”

The teams have produced some epic games in the past although they have not met in the Champions League since Chelsea pulled off a remarkable backs-to-the-wall semifinal victory over Barcelona on the way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Messi missed a penalty in the second leg at the Nou Camp as the London club overcame the first-half dismissal of captain John Terry, and a 2-0 deficit, to draw the game 2-2 and secure an unforgettable 3-2 aggregate win.

Bayern Munich hosts Besiktas in Tuesday’s other game while the following day sees Manchester United traveling to Sevilla, and Shakhtar Donetsk playing host to Roma.

Two weeks ago, the prospect of a Chelsea win over Barca would have been unthinkable after Conte’s men had slumped to successive defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The London club was still smarting from a 3-0 home loss against Bournemouth when it traveled to Watford and succumbed to an embarrassing 4-1 reverse.

Chelsea has got back on track since then, though, easing past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the league last Monday before swatting aside second-tier Hull 4-0 in the FA Cup four days later.

Conte has several selection dilemmas. He must choose between captain Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger for a place at the back, and between Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud up front.

Cesc Fabregas will also be desperate to play against his former team but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Barca has lost only once in 38 matches this season since falling in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid in August. It has a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi is having another stellar campaign, scoring 27 times in all competitions, and he helped set up two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar.

Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Barca following his move from Liverpool.