Belfast Telegraph

I owe so much to Liverpool and hope fans give me a warm return: Suarez

 

Familiar surroundings: Barcelona ace Luis Suarez trains at
Anfield ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg
Familiar surroundings: Barcelona ace Luis Suarez trains at Anfield ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg

By Carl Markham

Luis Suarez admits he owes a debt of gratitude to Liverpool for helping him become the player he is and believes a warm welcome awaits at Anfield for the service he put in for the club.

The Barcelona striker scored 82 goals in 133 matches over the duration of his three-and-a-half-year stay on Merseyside, where he was loved by Reds fans and generally detested by all opposition supporters.

Much of that was of his own making, having been banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra and then 10 matches for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

Suarez bit the hand that used to feed him after scoring the opening goal in the Champions League semi-final first-leg 3-0 win at the Nou Camp last week but he believes the reception he will receive on his return will be positive.

He has vowed not to celebrate, unlike last week, out of respect should he score in front of the Kop.

"It is special after enjoying a number of good years here and I am grateful to Liverpool for my time here and how they received me as a player," said the Uruguay international. "I will always be thankful for that and the heritage of the club. It is going to be very special to come back wearing a different shirt but I have lovely memories of my time here.

"It helped me in so many ways, it helped me become more technical. When I came from Ajax I did improve but having players with great experience allowed me to be even better.

"Being captain of Liverpool was one of the proudest moments of my career. It is something I won't forget. Playing in the elite with Barcelona is because of Liverpool."

Suarez is convinced fans will remember his record at Liverpool and respect him.

"I was here for three and a half years and the team had been four or five years without being in the Champions League. In the last year I was here we got in the Champions League," added the 32-year-old, who revealed canteen staff at Liverpool's Melwood training ground had given him presents for his three children.

"People know the work I did here. I think there will be more applause than whistles. There may be a few who are not happy but I think there will be more who are happy and grateful."

Suarez was criticised for celebrating wildly when he scored the opening goal last week. He will not be repeating those scenes should he net at Anfield.

"Celebrating the goal last week, people who know about football know about the importance of this," he said. "I have all the respect in the world for the Liverpool fans. Because I scored and celebrated with my fans, I say sorry.

"It is clear that if I score a goal against Liverpool I won't celebrate it in the same way."

Despite a significant advantage, coach Ernesto Valverde insists they will not underestimate their opponents.

"If we start to think about the first result we had it will be an error. We have to play as if there was not a game before," he said.

"It is going to be difficult. We have to be aware of the atmosphere here. We know the fans are going to be behind their side.

"Every team has their own style and it's always important to bring the game to your side.

"We want to have the feeling that we are in control. There is no doubt they will attack us. We have to stop the pressure."

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