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Roberto Mancini thinks Liverpool could have diffused Suarez situation

Speaking ahead of the Carling Cup semi-final, the Manchester City manager says a swift apology from Suarez would have helped calm race row down.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini during a press conference
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini during a press conference

MANCHESTER // Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, says he thinks Liverpool mishandled the Luis Suarez affair and believes his Carling Cup semi-final opponents could have defused the situation by issuing a swift apology.

Suarez was suspended for eight games after he was found guilty of racially abusing the Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in October's 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Liverpool have remained convinced of the striker's innocence, even though he admitted using the word "negro", and have been critical of the English Football Association for their handling of the case while Suarez only belatedly indicated his regret in a qualified apology, which did not mention Evra by name, last Wednesday.

It has prompted European football's anti-discrimination body, Fare, to call upon the FA to charge Liverpool with bringing the game into disrepute.

But Mancini, who was quick to stress that he does not believe Suarez is a racist, believes much of the controversy could have been avoided had Liverpool adopted a different approach.

"It is important to apologise for what you did," Mancini said, arguing inappropriate comments are made in the heat of the moment. "Sometimes on the pitch you can do something you don't want to do because you are nervous or you don't think.

"I don't think Suarez is a racist. I think he made a mistake, yes. Everyone can make a mistake sometimes: everyone. It is impossible that we are always perfect. It is important to say 'I am sorry, I made a mistake, I apologise for this' and accept the charge."

The Liverpool players and Kenny Dalglish, the manager, wore T-shirts with Suarez's image on as they warmed up for last month's draw at Wigan.

It was intended to be a gesture of solidarity for a teammate but prompted criticisms from outside Anfield and Mancini believes it could have been another mistake.

"Maybe," he said.

In their defence of Suarez, Liverpool argued that "negro" is not racist in the variant of Spanish used in Uruguay and, in a very different way, Mancini has experienced cultural differences in England.

The City manager was criticised for waving an imaginary card in last Wednesday's 3-0 win over Liverpool, encouraging Mike Jones, the referee, to dismiss Martin Skrtel.

It is a gesture that is commonplace in his native Italy but offends British notions of sportsmanship and Mancini said: "All the people say 'apologise, apologise because in England we don't do this', so I apologised. In Italy, it is normal. We are different."

Suarez serves the third match of his ban in tonight's semi-final first leg at the Etihad Stadium. It is a game when both sides could be short of forwards with Mancini, who is down to one specialist striker, hoping Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli will recover in time.

If not, Sergio Aguero will be alone in attack again with Mancini ruling out a recall for Carlos Tevez, who is in Argentina and has not represented City since refusing to warm up during the Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich in September.

"Now we are like this, we should continue like this," the City manager said. "We can do nothing for this situation." He hopes Tevez, a target for AC Milan and Inter Milan, will move on in the transfer window.

Yet it means City have a lengthy list of absentees as they try to reach a first League Cup final in 36 years. David Silva, who has an ankle problem, is another doubt while Vincent Kompany faces a four-match suspension after his dismissal against Manchester United after losing his appeal yesterday.

"In 30 years I have never seen a sending off for a tackle like this," said Mancini, who remains angry that his captain's challenge on Nani resulted in a red card.

The ban comes at an inopportune moment with both Toure brothers preparing for the African Cup of Nations.

However, Mancini has learnt that there is little sympathy for City when they are struggling to fill the bench with senior players.

"It is not because I want to criticise the club or because I want more players," he said.

"All the people think we have a lot of players but we have 19 players. Until three weeks ago, we didn't have any problems with injuries. Now we have a problem."

sports@thenational.ae

11.45pm, Aljazeera Sport

GARDNER HELPS CRYSTAL PALACE BLOOM FIRST

Crystal Palace inched closer to a match with the winner of the Liverpool-Manchester City clash with a 1-0 win at home against Cardiff City at Selhurst Park.

Anthony Gardner scored the only goal of the game when he netted for the first time in more than a year two minutes before the interval.

Former Tottenham defender Gardner was on target when, following a free-kick from Darren Ambrose, he headed a flick-on from Mile Jedinak into an unguarded net to give Palace, shock quarter-final winners over Manchester United, the lead ahead of the return fixture in Cardiff on January 24.

Gardner said: "It was intense, you could see out there, it was a fiery game, they came to win it and so did we but the fire was in the belly and you could see that with the boys tonight. – AFP