• League maintains pre-match routine for game at United
• Uruguayan received eight-game ban for racially abusing Evra
Patrice Evra will not be spared a decision on whether to shake the hand of Luis Suárez at Old Trafford on Saturday after the Premier League confirmed the pre-match routine will take place when Liverpool visit Manchester United.
The Football Association avoided an awkward situation between Anton Ferdinand and John Terry, who is accused of using racist language towards the Queens Park Rangers defender, a charge he denies, when Chelsea met Mark Hughes's team in the FA Cup fourth round last month by cancelling the handshake between the two teams before the game. The FA had been faced with the embarrassing prospect of several QPR players declining to shake Terry's hand and took the decision, it said in a statement, "in an attempt to further defuse tensions before the match".
That will not be the case when Liverpool appear at Old Trafford on Saturday and Suárez faces United for the first time since completing an eight-match ban for racially abusing Evra at Anfield last October. The two teams are expected to perform the routine before kick-off and, should Suárez start, the United defender will come face to face with the Uruguay international. Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, has stated that he believes Evra should "rise above" the temptation to ignore a handshake from Suárez, should he start.
Glen Johnson has claimed Suárez has the strength of character to handle the hostile reception that awaits him on Saturday. The striker could make his first start of the year against United and Evra having been suspended when Liverpool beat Ferguson's team in the FA Cup on 28 January.
The 25-year-old returned as a substitute for Kenny Dalglish's team in the goalless draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Monday and was quickly re-immersed in controversy when collecting a yellow card for kicking Scott Parker in the stomach. Wayne Rooney, the United striker, wrote on his Twitter account that the Liverpool forward should have been sent off.
Suárez received a rapturous reception at Anfield where Dalglish reiterated his stance that the former Ajax captain should not have been banned by the FA. Old Trafford, however, will treat the Uruguayan differently and, despite Suárez also receiving a one-match ban for responding to abuse from Fulham fans with an offensive gesture at Craven Cottage, Johnson is confident his team-mate will cope.
"It is a tough place to go, Old Trafford. Luis is a strong character and he will try to let his football do the talking," said the England international. "He is a fantastic player. He has had a long break now and hopefully he will be fresh and ready to put in a performance at the weekend. He is the sort of player we need in the team."
Johnson's fellow defender Martin Kelly believes a fit and fresh Suárez will have a major influence on Liverpool's pursuit of the Carling Cup, FA Cup and Champions League qualification.
"The crowd gave us a lift when they saw Luis coming on and it's fantastic to have him back," said Kelly. "He'll be a big help for us over the next few weeks when we've got big games coming up and he'll be there ready for the [Carling Cup] final."
Suárez also missed a glorious late chance to win Monday's game for Liverpool in his brief cameo appearance, heading into the arms of Spurs' goalkeeper Brad Friedel from inside the six-yard box, to leave Dalglish ruing the worst goals-to-chance ratio of any team in the Premier League (just under 9%).
Johnson added: "When you hear stats like that it doesn't sound good at all but I don't think performances have reflected that. We have been playing better than the eight draws out of 12 shows but that is football. It is always frustrating when you don't win and you play as well as that [against Spurs]. They are a fantastic team and we did enough to win the game but it was one of those days."