Mon, Dec 26, 2011 - Page 18 News List

All eyes on Suarez and Kean at Anfield

TARGETING EUROPE:Having dropped points at Wigan, Kenny Dalglish is demanding his side return to winning ways to keep their UEFA Champions League hopes alive

AFP, LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND

Kenny Dalglish has leapt to the defense of Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean as Liverpool’s Luis Suarez prepares for his first match at Anfield since receiving an eight-match ban from the Football Association.

Suarez, who is set to appeal the suspension for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, is still eligible to play as his ban has yet to come into force.

The Uruguay striker featured in the goalless stalemate with Wigan Athletic on Wednesday — the day after the suspension was announced — and is again set to play against Blackburn, the Premier League’s bottom club, today.

However, there will be just as much attention on beleaguered Kean as there will be on Suarez after a dreadful run of form which has left Blackburn fans calling ever louder for the manager to be sacked.

Earlier in the season, Kean said he was willing to meet disgruntled fans to outline his plans for the future, but the Scot now believes his safety could be at risk if such a meeting took place.

Liverpool manager Dalglish, who masterminded Blackburn’s Premier League title success in 1995, admits the situation at his former club is “sad,” but he believes Kean needs support — not abuse.

“They are under a lot of pressure and the frustration is understandable in many ways, but I don’t think it is helpful and I think it is sad really that it has come to that, but that is the way it is,” Dalglish said. “I think it is unfortunate that as a manager you know that results are going to count and if you don’t get them, then you are running the risk of getting your P45 [sacked]. Results aren’t purely down to what the manager does, he needs support from the players, owners and certainly the crowd.”

Having dropped points at lowly Wigan in midweek, Dalglish is demanding his side return to winning ways as Liverpool seek to keep their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League alive.

Captain Steven Gerrard could return from his two-month injury absence from an infected ankle. Midfielder Gerrard, 31, has appeared in just five matches this campaign as a result of injuries, but he is back in training and stands a chance of featuring against Blackburn.

“He’s been training, but whether that means he’s ready or not, we’ll have to wait and see,” added Dalglish, who has midfielder Jay Spearing available after suspension.

Meanwhile, Kean’s future could be decided over the course of the next few days, with Blackburn facing a daunting match against Manchester United on Saturday after the Liverpool game.

“It’s not a nice place we find ourselves in at the moment,” said Kean, who was appointed a year ago after Blackburn Rovers’ Indian owners Venky’s sacked Sam Allardyce. “I’ll take the responsibility for that, I’ll never shirk away from that or duck that. The players are giving me everything they can. It’s been tough. It’s never easy when you’re getting a bit of stick, but it’s part of the job. There’s plenty of people who have got stick over the years from fans and months later the fans are singing your name. That’s football.”

Blackburn could be without first-choice goalkeeper Paul Robinson, who has a small tear in his calf muscle, while Sweden international Martin Olsson (hamstring) has not recovered as quickly as anticipated.

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