Brendan Rodgers will not hesitate to deploy Luis Suarez
Wayward striker will play against rivals United if required, says Liverpool boss
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez (right) is likely to return against Manchester United on Wednesday night. Photograph: Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters
Brendan Rodgers will have “no hesitation” in using Luis Suarez against Manchester United but admits the Liverpool striker’s rehabilitation faces a greater challenge than a charged return at Old Trafford.
The Uruguay international is pressing to start tonight’s League Cup tie having served a 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic on April 21st
Rodgers believes the third-round draw “stoked” Suarez’s efforts in training and, as against Notts County in round two, the Liverpool manager will field a strong side in an attempt to take the shortest route to Wembley.
Suarez would be guaranteed a hostile reception at United irrespective of his recent ban, having received an eight-match suspension for using racially abusive language towards Patrice Evra in 2011 and failed to shake the defender’s hand when they next met. But Rodgers insists the combination of the striker’s history with United and return from another lengthy ban will not influence his selection at Old Trafford.
“I have got no hesitation about playing Luis,” said the Liverpool manager. “Since I have been here there has never been an issue with anything like that. There is the history of the clash but it won’t enter my mind. Luis is a tough character. He is resilient and one of the strongest-willed characters I have met in my life. I don’t think he will bat an eyelid at that . . . We are just delighted to have him back. I know the players are happy we are bringing someone back like that of that quality.”
Rodgers concedes, however, that Suarez must demonstrate his temperament has improved over the long term and not simply on a one-off occasion against Liverpool’s fiercest rivals. The 26-year-old has twice been banned for biting an opponent, having received a seven-match suspension for sinking his teeth into PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in 2010, and Liverpool provided psychological support to the striker during his latest absence.
Asked if United away represents the ultimate test of whether the striker has learned from the Ivanovic controversy, Rodgers replied: “I don’t think so. I think that [test] will come over time. It won’t be a one-off game.”
Debt of gratitude
The Liverpool manager has said Suarez is aware he owes the club having collected suspensions totalling 20 matches in the past two seasons and received steadfast support from supporters. But Rodgers claims to be unconcerned that the striker’s volatile reputation will mean he is targeted increasingly by Liverpool’s opponents.
“I don’t think he will be targeted any more than he has been before,” he said. “Luis is that type of player. He will always provoke the tackle . . . I think this is a good game for us after the disappointment of the weekend [Saturday’s defeat by Southampton]. Luis will be a part of it.”
Liverpool beat United in the Premier League at Anfield three weeks ago and would intensify the scrutiny on Moyes with victory tonight. Rodgers admits there are parallels between him replacing a legendary figure in Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager and Moyes succeeding Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.
“I came in after Kenny, who is a legend of the club. But you have to put your own mark on things and do things as you see fit,” said Rodgers. “I’m sure David, like myself, will make every decision that is best for his club.”