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.

Club World Cup wrap: Gremio reaches final, Urawa takes fifth place

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One half of this year’s FIFA Club World Cup final was decided on Tuesday as Brazilian side Gremio topped Liga MX champions Pachuca.

Second-half substitute Everton proved to be the difference for the Brazilians, with the attacker scoring in extra time to lift Gremio.

[ MORE: LA FC selects Urena, four others in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Pachuca’s chances of completing a comeback were extinguished with 10 minutes remaining in extra time, as Víctor Guzman was sent off upon picking up his second yellow card of the semifinal.

Meanwhile, Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds captured fifth place in the tournament after narrowly topping Wydad Casablanca, 3-2.

Despite going behind early, Urawa responded almost immediately in the first half, before building its lead to 3-1 at the hour mark.

A late penalty kick from Reda Hajhouj gave Casablanca a glimmer of hope in the dying moments, however, the Moroccan-based club couldn’t find a way to equalize.

Gremio will await either La Liga giants Real Madrid or Al Jazira in the Club World Cup final, which will be played on Saturday. The loser of that match will take on Pachuca in the third-place game.

Below are the scores from Tuesday’s FIFA Club World Cup matches.

Gremio 1-0 Pachuca (after extra time)

Wydad Casablanca 2-3 Urawa Red Diamonds — Fifth-place match

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”