Belfast Telegraph

Let's stifle Luis Suarez, says Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Michael O'Neill intends to follow the Jose Mourinho method in order to stop Uruguayan superstar Luis Suarez.

The Northern Ireland manager is relishing the opportunity of coming up with a plan to prevent Liverpool striker Suarez tearing his team apart in a friendly in Montevideo on May 30.

O'Neill will attempt to succeed where just about every Premier League boss has failed this season with Suarez scoring 31 goals in England's top division, tormenting defence after defence.

Chelsea, led by Mourinho, somehow managed to keep him at bay at both Stamford Bridge and Anfield with the game on Merseyside last month a perfect illustration of how to frustrate the South American.

O'Neill is clearly looking at the Special One for inspiration.

"Suarez is a sensational footballer who has outclassed the best defenders in the world, so I know how hard it is going to be for us," said the Northern Ireland boss.

"Chelsea made life difficult for Liverpool and Suarez in the game at Anfield last month and that may be the way for us go.

"Jose Mourinho has obviously a stronger squad than me but in that game he denied Liverpool and Suarez space both in front of the defence and in behind which made it hard to break through. Our team shape and discipline will be very important."

O'Neill joked that he would not be asking countryman Brendan Rodgers to tell the Liverpool striker, who has netted 38 international goals, to take it easy on Northern Ireland because he probably wouldn't listen.

"Having talked to Brendan about him, Suarez knows only one way to play and that is to play to win every second he is on the pitch," said O'Neill.

"You can tell he takes great pride in his country so when we face him we know he'll be doing everything he can to cause us trouble.

"Uruguay don't just have Suarez, they have other world class players too so it will be a huge challenge for us."

Those other world class players include Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid and Paris St Germain's Edinson Cavani. Former Manchester United ace Diego Forlan is also in Uruguay's squad.

While they have strikers full of experience, three of O'Neill's defenders for the trip – Liverpool's Ryan McLaughlin, Fulham's Liam Donnelly and Doncaster's Luke McCullough – do not have a cap between them.

O'Neill will look to tried and trusted performers on the international stage such as Aaron Hughes and Chris Baird to nurse the kids through what will be a massive test.

Northern Ireland's game against Uruguay at the end of the month, which will be followed by another away friendly in Chile on June 4, will create plenty of interest in England, who are in the same World Cup group as Suarez and co along with Italy and Costa Rica.

England boss Roy Hodgson and his team will no doubt be watching a DVD of the game before they take on Uruguay on June 19.

It is a most unlikely scenario given that Northern Ireland will be far from full strength for the game, but if they were to pull off a stunning win, not only would it be one of the greatest results ever for our wee country, it would represent a history making success.

O'Neill (pictured) added: "No European team has ever won in Uruguay and Brazil have only won there twice which gives an indication of the task we face, but we go there with nothing to lose. The game will be played in the stadium where the first World Cup final took place in 1930, so it will be a special occasion for everyone involved with the Northern Ireland squad."

Belfast Telegraph


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