Every senior match in England will kick-off seven minutes later than normal this weekend as soccer marks the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool fans died at an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
Nowhere will the mark of respect carry greater significance than at Anfield, where Premier League leaders Liverpool face third-placed Manchester City in a match that will have a significant impact on who is going to emerge as champions this season.
The 1989 semi-final was abandoned at neutral Hillsborough in Sheffield after six minutes, and an additional minute of silence will complete the seven-minute observation.
Liverpool’s game will get underway at 1337 local time (12.37 GMT) on Sunday, while every match in England’s senior divisions will start later between April 11 and April 15, the actual anniversary of the disaster.
With Liverpool now in sight of their first title since 1990, when the scars from the tragedy were still raw, emotions at Anfield will likely be running higher than normal.
Brendan Rodgers’s side, who have won their last nine league matches to go top of the table, can take a major stride towards the title with a 10th successive league win, and Rodgers is aware of what Sunday will mean to the fans.
“I know there are 96 people in the sky who will always be supporting this team,” he said following his side’s 2-1 victory over West Ham United at Upton Park on Sunday.
That win put Liverpool on 74 points with five games to play, two ahead of Chelsea (72) and four points above Manchester City (70), who have two games in hand.
“We want to do this (win the league) for the great support and football family of Liverpool, and if we are to achieve anything this year the 96 in the sky will always be in our thoughts, and their families,” Rodgers said.
“There’s a number of great teams in this league, big clubs with titles under their belts in the last 10 years,” he told reporters.
“We’re fighting them. Manchester City are strong and have every component to do well. They’re a wonderful club and they’ve invested well in top players. They’ll be looking to come to Anfield and get a result.”
Manchester City, clearly, will be intent on taking three points from the game, as they did when Manchester United observed the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster in 2008.
City were the visitors continued…