Bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester United are hopeful their Premier League meeting on Sunday at Anfield can close up some the rift between the clubs. As it was last weekend when Queens Park Rangers played Chelsea with all eyes on Anton Ferdinand andJohn Terry, the pregame handshake between the teams will be closely watched. Assuming both players are in the starting lineups, United defender Patrice Evra and Liverpool's Uruguayan Luis Suarez, who was banned for eight matches last year for racially abusing the Frenchman, will be expected to shake hands before kickoff. When the teams played last Febuary at Old Trafford, Evra extended his hand during the pre-game ritual and Suarez ignored the gesture.
The game is also is Liverpool's first at home since a report of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster largely exonerated its fans, 96 of whom died when they rushed into an already over-crowded section of the stadium. An anti-Liverpool chant of "It's never your fault, always the victims" was heard at Old Trafford last weekend during United's 4-0 victory over Wigan Athletic.
United fans went on social media Web sites to explain the reference was to Suarez and not Hillsborough, but the incident raised tensions between the clubs leading up to Sunday's match. The two team captains, likely to be Steven Gerrard and Nemanja Vidic, will release 96 balloons before kickoff. Mosaics on three sides of the ground spelling out "96," "Justice" and "The Truth."
"We are totally supportive of Liverpool in this situation," United coach Alex Ferguson said. "It's going to be a very emotional day on Sunday and we will support them in every way that we can."