Swords out as Liverpool draw United

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LONDON — Liverpool will play Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers (QPR) face a potential tie against Chelsea, in what would be a rerun of two matches at the heart of recent racism rows in English soccer, after Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round draw.

The Liverpool-Manchester United Premier League game on October 15 has hardly been out of the headlines since United defender Patrice Evra accused Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez of racially abusing him during the game.

Although Suarez denied the charge, the Football Association (FA) found him guilty, banned him for eight matches and fined him £40 000 ($61 000).

He will still be serving his suspension when the match is played at Anfield on the weekend of January 28-29, but will be available to play against United in the return Premier League match at Old Trafford on February 11.

The draw bringing Liverpool and United together also comes two days after a 20-year-old Liverpool man was arrested and charged with alleged racist abuse towards Oldham Athletic’s Tom Adeyemi during Liverpool’s 5-1 third round win on Friday.

Sunday’s draw also raised the possibility of a quick rematch between Chelsea and QPR — provided QPR win their replay against League One (third tier) Milton Keynes Dons.

Emotions have run high between the clubs since they met at Loftus Road on October 23 when Chelsea skipper John Terry was alleged to have racially insulted QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

Terry has strenuously denied the allegations, but has been charged by the government’s prosecution service and will appear in court to face the charge on February 1, three or four days after their possible cup meeting with QPR.

United knocked out holders Manchester City on Sunday after winning a thrilling third round tie 3-2 after being 3-0 ahead at halftime. Apart from the controversy surrounding the Liverpool game, they now face another tough match against one of the Premier League’s top teams.

United, who have won the FA Cup a record 11 times, have beaten Liverpool twice in the final itself in 1977 and 1996, but Liverpool won their last meeting in the competition, a 1-0 victory in the fourth round in 2006.

United striker Wayne Rooney, who scored twice in the victory over City and started his career at Everton, was relishing the trip to Anfield. He said on Twitter: “What a draw for (the) next round. Another big game. Can’t wait for it already.”

Chelsea, who won the FA Cup three times in four seasons between 2007 and 2010, lost their league match 1-0 against QPR, but QPR’s form has slumped significantly since then and Chelsea will be favourites to advance.

If they do face QPR, a different manager will be in the home dugout after the west Londoners sacked manager Neil Warnock on Sunday following their slide down the table.

Tottenham Hotspur, eight times FA Cup winners and the highest ranked team left in the FA Cup behind United, make the short trip to Championship (second division) Watford.

Arsenal, whose last trophy came when they won their 10th FA Cup in 2005, will be at home to seven-time winners Aston Villa if they beat Championship side Leeds United at the Emirates.

There could be as many as six all-Premier League matches with Everton hosting Fulham, West Bromwich Albion playing Norwich City and Arsenal playing Villa.

Swindon Town, the League One (third division) team who knocked out Premier League Wigan Athletic on Saturday, will travel to meet the winners of the all-Championship replay between Nottingham Forest and Leicester City.

There will also be an intriguing North East derby between a Sunderland side, rejuvenated by new coach Martin O’Neill, and Championship promotion candidates Middlesbrough.

One team from League One will definitely make it into the fifth round (last 16) after Stevenage Borough were drawn against Notts County.

FA Cup Fourth Round draw
Brighton and Hove Albion or Wrexham v Newcastle United
Sunderland v Middlesbrough
Dagenham and Redbridge or Millwall v Southampton
Hull v Crawley
Milton Keynes Dons or Queens Park Rangers v ChelseaWest Bromwich Albion v NorwichBlackpool v Sheffield Wednesday
Arsenal or Leeds v Aston Villa
Stevenage v Notts County
Watford v Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool v Manchester United
Derby County v Stoke City
Everton v Fulham
Macclesfield Town or Bolton Wanderers v Swansea City
Sheffield United v Birmingham City or Wolverhampton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest or Leicester City v Swindon Town