Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: Luis Suarez is 'champing at the bit' to return after 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic

Champing at the bit: With Liverpool's Luis Suarez back alongside Daniel Sturridge  the club's forward line will be armed to the teeth
Champing at the bit: With Liverpool's Luis Suarez back alongside Daniel Sturridge the club's forward line will be armed to the teeth
Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea talks with Luis Suarez of Liverpool as they walk in for half time during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 21, 2013 in Liverpool
Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea talks with Luis Suarez of Liverpool as they walk in for half time during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 21, 2013 in Liverpool

Brendan Rodgers claims Luis Suarez is "champing at the bit" ahead of his return from a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April.

The Liverpool manager, from Carnlough in Co Antrim, says Suarez has suffered from not playing football during his ban but believes the player is hungry and can't wait to get a taste of Premier League action again.

The Reds boss is confident the 26-year-old is ready both physically and mentally to be thrust back into action.

However, he is less sure about whether the player has learned from the sanction imposed for nibbling on Ivanovic.

Rodgers would not confirm whether the Uruguay international had been helped by the club's in-house psychologist Dr Steve Peters in the wake of his misdemeanour, but hinted it had been part of a wide-ranging rehabilitation programme.

Suarez, of course, has previous for biting having been banned for seven matches for sinking his teeth into PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal while playing for Ajax in November 2010, immediately prior to his move to Anfield.

"I am not going into too much detail on him but he has had support in every way," said Rodgers.

"It is not just technical and tactical development here, we look at physical elements and how we can improve psychological state. He has worked tirelessly on every aspect.

"He's had a long time to reflect on what has happened but now all that is in the past, the ban is finished and he has suffered because he hasn't been playing.

"Now he is available and we are all delighted he is ready to go again."

But asked whether Suarez had learned his lesson after a second lengthy ban for biting, Rodgers could only say: "We will see, we will see."

Suarez is set to be thrust into action in Wednesday's Capital One Cup tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

While he has played a handful of internationals and some behind-closed-doors friendlies at the club's Melwood training ground, his last regular competitive football came to an end on April 21.

But Rodgers has no doubts over the player's readiness to return.

"How he has prepared himself over the last number of weeks has been fantastic," said the Reds boss, who will decide in the next 24 hours whether Suarez starts at Old Trafford.

"He's really champing at the bit to help the team.

"Everyone knows the depth of his quality and his attitude.

"He is non-stop and he has commitment and I am sure once he gets back on the field again he will show what he has shown since he's been here, which is top quality.

"He played a behind-closed-doors game against Burnley and we had a lot of our younger players in that because some of the older ones had played a reserve game the night before.

"I know a lot of players who would've decided to come and train that morning but he loves the game and he lives for the game and he put everything into that.

"It is what we expect because that is the type of character he is."

Suarez has bridges to build not only with the wider football community but within his own club's fanbase after trying to manufacture a move away in the summer.

The club turned down a £40,000,001 bid from Arsenal and principal owner John Henry categorically stated the player would not be sold.

But despite criticising Rodgers in a newspaper interview, claiming he and the club reneged on a deal to allow him to leave for a Champions League club, the Reds boss does not feel the striker has a debt to repay to Liverpool and their fans.

"This club has given every single player here everything in the time I've been here and none more so than Luis," said the Northern Irishman, also referencing the backing he received after being banned for seven matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra the season before last.

"He will show that and demonstrate that in his performances and that is what the players and people want to see.

"They want to see him with a red shirt on fighting for the club.

"The great thing about this football club is no matter what a player has done - or supposedly said - the supporters are 150 per cent behind every player that pulls on that shirt and they back them to the hilt.

"I am sure that is something we will see and aligned to that will be his commitment, and that will be nothing more than I would expect.

"I have no doubt, having been out, he will be even hungrier but his commitment and fight for the cause will still be the same."

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