London – Brendan Rodgers will unleash Luis Suarez at Old Trafford on Wednesday with a message ringing in the striker’s ears that he owes Liverpool his unwavering commitment.
The Uruguayan has not played a competitive game for Liverpool in 155 days, while serving a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, but he is now available and, according to his manager, “champing at the bit” to relaunch his career.
Given the offence for which Suarez was banned, Rodgers’ attempt to describe Suarez’s enthusiasm was clumsy but the sentiments were obvious.
The 26-year-old has been working his way back to peak condition and will almost certainly start against Manchester United on Wednesday.
While there is little doubt that Suarez’s glittering talents will enhance Liverpool’s hopes of progressing in the Capital One Cup and add to their great rivals’ torment, it has not been forgotten how he flirted with Arsenal in the hope of securing a move to a Champions League club.
Rodgers castigated Suarez when his attitude tailed off in August at the height of Arsenal’s pursuit and though bridges have subsequently been repaired, the Liverpool manager will not hesitate to tell his star what he expects from him going forward.
“He just can’t wait to get playing again,” said Rodgers. “There’s a real determination in him now.
“Obviously there was a lot going on over the course of the summer, but he’s trained hard and his entrance back into the squad now is perfect timing really.
“We’ve got a few injuries, so to have someone of that quality to come into the squad is good.
“Do I think he is committed? Yes, I do. Absolutely. That’s the one thing about Luis Suarez, because of the type of character he is. He can’t play football any other way.
“He knows what the club’s stance was and he stayed,” added Rodgers. “We stayed strong in our belief that we wanted to hang on to him. The minute that passed, he’s been working tirelessly. It was difficult for everyone in the summer but that’s behind us now.”
Certainly, Liverpool do not need Suarez to create any more turbulence. Having been through two huge storms following incidents on the field, as well as the saga that surrounded his future, what Rodgers needs is for the former Ajax man to just play as well as he can. Whether that message has been heeded will not become apparent for some time.
But what is not to be doubted is how much Suarez wants to pull on a Reds shirt again, as he has not played in front of a big crowd for Liverpool since July 28 when they concluded their pre-season tour in Thailand.
To get Suarez back into shape, Liverpool have played a number of behind-closed-doors fixtures, the most recent against Burnley at Melwood last week. Rodgers believes Suarez is aware that he cannot afford to make any transgressions.
“Knowing him, this is what he lives for,” said Rodgers.”He played the game the other day with a group of youngsters against Burnley – maybe another player, or the majority of players, might not have wanted to play in that.
“I know how much he loves the game. And I see how passionate he is when we travel home and away and when we play in games.
“I’ve got absolutely no question he has missed the game – that’s what he lives for.
‘I’m sure he does (know he owes Liverpool); you will find that out once he gets that strip on. He will work his socks off.
“He’s received nothing but affection and love from the supporters. They deserve no less than 100 per cent. Knowing Luis, that’s what he’ll give them.
“It’s been an interesting couple of years for him here,” added Rodgers. “He’s a top player and he needs to show all his qualities to the supporters here. I am very hopeful he is now focused on delivering for them.”
Liverpool, meanwhile, are prepared to open talks with Glen Johnson over a new contract. – Daily Mail