Liverpool are likely to be without Luis Suarez for the remainder of this season. Which is something they may need to get used to if the FA deem his bite on Branislav Ivanovic to be worthy of the ten-game ban many are predicting.
The last time the Uruguay striker bit someone (a sentence which in itself begs more questions than I have the time or the space to answer) he was banned for seven matches.
This time the independent regulating committee have a big question to answer: what is a sufficient punishment for such an incomprehensible offence?
If they come down as hard on the striker as seems likely, his club could be without him for as many as six games next season.
And that is without the almost inevitable discretions that would cause him to miss further matches. Because it has to be said: for all his undeniable talent, for all the times he has single-handedly inspired his team to three points, Suarez makes stupid decisions.
So in the four games remaining this season, Liverpool fans may experience a microcosm of their next campaign.
If Brendan Rodgers can inspire his side to perform without their talisman (or other talisman) they may be able to compete next season.
But if they can’t, the Reds are in for a tough time.
There is no question the side needs new players. To stand any chance of competing long term with the six teams currently above them in the league, Liverpool must buy big and they must buy smart.
But to be forever compensating for the foolishness of one they currently have is a problem they could do without.
Suarez recently said he would like to remain at Liverpool for the next four years. Although the way he said it suggested he was well aware of his habit of courting controversy.
“A club can decide they don’t want you, even though you want to stay,” he said.
“In football things never turn out the way you plan.”
For the next few games and possibly many more, Rodgers must plan for a side without Suarez.
That way, both when he plays and when he doesn’t, Liverpool will have a chance of competing rather than simply taking part.
How long do you think Suarez will be banned for? And who should Rodgers bring in for next season?
image: © Vincent Teeuwen