x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Suarez ban will impact Liverpool's progress

Uruguay forward's ban is for eight matches but other players do not have the form to step up their game in his absence.

In 1995, Eric Cantona's season came to an abrupt end when he kung-fu kicked a Crystal Palace fan.

The consequences were considerable. Blackburn Rovers displaced Manchester United as champions, something that, had the Frenchman remained available, may never have happened.

Few suspensions are as significant, but Luis Suarez's punishment for racially abusing Patrice Evra may come close. Cantona was banned for eight months, Suarez for eight games, but it could be the defining period of Liverpool's campaign.

His absence, assuming an appeal does not succeed, will coincide with both legs of the Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City and, after five seasons without a trophy, Kenny Dalglish has made winning silverware a priority.

Factor in his absence for four or five Premier League games, depending upon the club's fortunes in the FA Cup, and the stated aim of securing a top-four finish and Champions League football becomes harder. This is a ban that could derail Liverpool's season.

Important an issue as racism undoubtedly is, it is Suarez's significance on the field that accounts for many of the extreme opinions generated, whether by those who love or hate Liverpool. Especially in Steven Gerrard's extended absence, he is far and away their finest player.

With Andy Carroll's continued failure to justify his £35 million (Dh202m) fee, Suarez has been a one-man forward line, with an impact far greater than his goal tally suggests.

Minus the Uruguayan, others have to compensate. Judging from the season so far, it is doubtful they can.