Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches for racially abusing Patrice EvraI think Patrice Evra has the character to deal with whatever is thrown at him when Manchester United visit Liverpool in the FA Cup on Saturday and I don't think he will let any abuse from the stands affect him.
I am sure the controversy won't affect Manchester United either, though the intimidating atmosphere as a whole may have an impact on those players who haven't played at Anfield before in a United shirt. It is quite an experience.
The Luis Suarez racism case hangs over this match of course, and it was disappointing how Liverpool tried to make out that Evra was the villain of the piece after the FA's initial judgement was released. They accused him of "prior unfounded accusations", which simply was not the case. I think too much was being said by certain individuals at Liverpool and I think that worked against them as well.
This gave a false picture to a lot of Liverpool fans, a picture that depicted the club and Suarez as being in the right. However, it has since been proved they were not. That is one of the reasons Liverpool fans have been so critical of Evra and unfortunately we are likely to hear the effects of that stance on Saturday.
Despite the obvious shadow hanging over the game I fully expect Evra to play and I would be disappointed if he didn't. If he had been advised not to participate by the police or his club then I would fully understand, but it would come as a real shock if he didn't want to play.
He is the man who made the complaint against Suarez, which was proved correct, and for me it makes sense for him to play in the game. It shouldn't affect him at all being the character he is: fans booing him won't make much difference to Evra.
I do wonder why Liverpool fans are taking it personally though. Yes they have lost an important player to an eight-game ban but there are bigger issues at stake. How would they feel if the boot was on the other foot? If it was their son on the receiving end of the kind of racial abuse Evra was?
It is inevitable Evra will be targeted by the home fans at Anfield. It may be a small minority of ignorant people who take it too far but that's the way the game is going. They are the people who need to be stopped and educated. They need to learn that football is a game of 90 minutes and if they have any grievances to air they should do it with their mates at the pub, not in the stadium.
They need to show respect. Respect for opponents, respect for their own club and respect for supporters and players. Why not cheer their players rather than worrying about one person? They may feel that by booing him they will get it all off their chests but I find it all very weak from the Liverpool supporters. Booing won't do anything but demonstrate how ignorant they are.
The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United has always been ferocious. While I do not expect the Suarez situation to have any impact on emotions on the pitch, in the stands it may translate into a more intense dislike between the two sets of fans. I think it may have made Liverpool fans more bitter and so it certainly adds to the tension surrounding the game.
I am not sure whether this game will be a classic given events surrounding it, and a lot will hinge on the performance of referee Mark Halsey. It is about how he reacts to different situations and if he allows himself to be influenced by the Liverpool fans. If Evra makes a rash tackle for example, he has to pull him aside and deal with him quietly, calm him down.
The players also have a responsibility to not put any undue pressure on the referee. Match officials always get the blame but if they are not being helped by the people on the pitch then they have a very tough job on his hands.