Belfast Telegraph

Martin Skrtel is facing three-game ban for 'stamp' on David De Gea

By Carl Markham

Martin Skrtel is facing a retrospective ban after the Football Association charged the Liverpool defender with violent conduct following his clash with Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea during Sunday's Premier League match.

Skrtel appeared to step on the Spaniard in the 95th minute of the game at Anfield, which Liverpool lost 2-1.

Referee Martin Atkinson took no action at the time but television replays showed the Slovakian defender trod on De Gea's leg.

The 30-year-old has until 6.00pm this evening to respond to the charge.

If he were found guilty, Skrtel would face a three-match ban, ruling him out of the Premier League matches against Arsenal and Newcastle and the FA Cup quarter-final replay at Blackburn.

The Reds will already have to cope without Steven Gerrard, who was sent off less than a minute after coming on as a half-time substitute for a stamp on Ander Herrera.

With the imposition of a three-match ban possible, Liverpool would need cover but fellow centre-back Dejan Lovren is already a doubt after being ruled out of Croatia's Euro 2016 qualifier against Norway on Saturday.

The 25-year-old was not in the squad to face United and the Croatian Football Federation have announced he will miss this weekend's match in Zagreb due to a recurrence of the "abdominal wall injury" that forced him out of last year's game against Bulgaria.

Liverpool's other centre-back, Kolo Toure, has travelled to the Ivory Coast to join up with his national team despite retiring after winning the African Nations Cup earlier this year.

The veteran defender, who is close to agreeing a one-year extension to his stay at Anfield, has been included in the party for friendlies against Angola and Equatorial Guinea so he can be involved in the celebrations as the squad play their first matches in the Ivory Coast since lifting the trophy.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and manager Brendan Rodgers have called for the players to use the defeat against Manchester United as motivation for a renewed top-four push.

The 2-1 loss was their first in the league since losing at Old Trafford in mid-December and left them five points adrift of their arch-rivals, who occupy the final Champions League qualification spot.

But just as the squad reacted to losing to United just before Christmas, the expectation now is for them to bounce back and maintain the challenge.

"There's still a lot to play for and when we come back from international duty, we've got that big game against Arsenal (in third)," said Mignolet.

"The game away to Manchester United at Old Trafford we used as a catalyst to put in a lot of good performances - so let's use this game as a catalyst again when we come back.

"With all the games still to play until the end of the season we can still do really well.

"We'll build on the game and hopefully we can come back and get a run going again like we did after that Old Trafford game."

Ulsterman Rodgers has urged the squad to use the international break to put the defeat behind them and return ready for a difficult trip to the Emirates Stadium.

"The message to the players was that last performance at Old Trafford was a great springboard for us," he said.

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