Belfast Telegraph

Skrtel to miss key games due to ban

Defender Martin Skrtel will miss Liverpool's crucial match at top-four rivals Arsenal and the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Blackburn after failing in his bid to overturn a three-match suspension for standing on Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.

The Slovakia international's ban will also take in the visit of Newcastle on April 13 after his appeal against a violent conduct charge - on the grounds his action was accidental and not intentional - was rejected by independent panel.

However, Press Association Sport understands the 30-year-old is likely to escape further punishment from the Football Association after he posted a picture of clowns on his Instagram account - which has been widely viewed as his comment on those who sat on the panel and decided the outcome of the hearing.

Skrtel was charged on the basis of video evidence after referee Martin Atkinson missed the incident in the last seconds of Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Anfield.

He chased a through-ball as 10-man Liverpool searched for a late equaliser but De Gea slid in to get there first and the defender continued his run and stood on the goalkeeper's right shin.

A three-man panel of former elite officials reviewed the footage independently of each other and unanimously agreed the offence warranted a red card and despite Skrtel's protestations a ban will now be imposed.

In a statement the FA confirmed the punishment, saying: "Liverpool's Martin Skrtel will serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect after a charge of violent conduct against him was found proven.

"The defender had denied the charge which related to an on-field incident involving Manchester United's David de Gea in the 95th minute of Sunday's game which was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.

"However, an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today found the charge proven."

The news from the FA was released at 1pm but Skrtel had been informed prior to that and two hours previously he took to Instagram to post an uncaptioned picture of three clowns in what appeared to be his less-than-subtle opinion on the verdict.

His suspension means manager Brendan Rodgers will have to make another change to his first-choice defence which has been remarkably successful since the turn of the year.

Dejan Lovren would be his preferred option, as he filled in for the injured Mamadou Sakho recently, but a doubt hangs over the Croatia international for the Arsenal match at least.

The 25-year-old was not in the squad to face United last weekend and he was not fit enough to join up with his national side for Euro Saturday's 2016 qualifier against Norway on Saturday because of the recurrence of an abdominal injury.

Liverpool's only other centre-back is Kolo Toure, who has travelled to the Ivory Coast to join up with his national team despite retiring from international football as the squad celebrate their African Nations Cup triumph earlier this year with friendlies against Angola and Equatorial Guinea in front of home fans.

The other option Rodgers could go for, if he persists with a back three, is to move Emre Can to the centre and bring in Glen Johnson on the right.

Although Can is a full-back he has played a couple of times already in a three-man back line and is an alternative.

While many are on international duty this week, a host of former Liverpool players, plus other stars, will line up at Anfield for a charity game in aid of the Liverpool Foundation and other local good causes.

Latest additions to the line-up, which already includes the likes of Luis Suarez, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Thierry Henry, are Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam, Blackburn's Jay Spearing, Steven Gerrard's cousin Anthony (currently at Oldham), Crystal Palace's Scott Dann, Swansea captain Ashley Williams, West Ham's Stewart Downing, Peter Gulacsi (now at Red Bull Salzburg), Harry Kewell and Manchester City's Gael Clichy.

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