Rodgers hails 'outstanding' Suarez
Published 26/04/2014 | 14:47
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes striker Luis Suarez's transformation from public enemy number one to likely Footballer of the Year is a true credit to the player.
Just over 12 months ago the Uruguay international was starting a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in one of the most bizarre incidents of last season.
The pair are set to come face to face again at the scene of the crime on Sunday but Suarez arrives at Anfield as a completely different person.
Having served his punishment, which extended five matches into the current campaign, the 27-year-old's performances have been nothing short of remarkable, producing a return of 30 goals in as many Premier League games with three hat-tricks - including four goals in a 5-1 win over Norwich in December.
That means he is the favourite to lift the Professional Footballers' Association's player of the year title on Sunday evening and with it complete his rehabilitation from a player opponents and fans loved to hate to one who is fully appreciated for his world-class quality.
"He is a brilliant talent. I think the supporters have seen him mature over the course of the last season," said Rodgers.
"I think he was in a real low moment after that game (against Chelsea last year) but he has gone away and probably looked in the mirror and reflected on himself because he is not that type of guy and it probably just spilled over.
"He is a really intelligent man who fits the values of this club, which is all about humility, class and he has all of that.
"He is a sheer winner and that probably overspilled last year, but his development over the last year has been remarkable both on and off the field and Liverpool have benefited from that.
"For me he is the consistently outstanding player over the course of the last year."
Striker Daniel Sturridge faces a late assessment to see whether he is fit enough to return from a hamstring injury at home to Chelsea on Sunday.
The England international missed last week's win at Norwich with the problem but has progressed well in training, and should he be ready midfielder Lucas Leiva is likely to miss out.
On-loan winger Victor Moses is ineligible against his parent club and midfielder Jordan Henderson serves the second game of a three-match ban
Jose Mourinho is considering wholesale changes for Chelsea's trip due to the proximity of the Champions League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid next Wednesday.
The Blues are afflicted by injuries to goalkeeper Petr Cech (shoulder), captain John Terry (ankle), playmaker Eden Hazard (calf) and Samuel Eto'o (knee), while midfielder Ramires' season is over after he received a four-match ban for striking Sebastian Larsson in the loss to Sunderland.
Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah are ineligible in Europe so are likely to feature, while Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel are available ahead of European bans, with all four likely to be selected at Liverpool.
Mourinho is unfazed at the prospect of finishing the first season of his return to Chelsea without a trophy.
The Blues face a pivotal four days to determine if they can resurrect their Premier League hopes and advance to the Champions League final in Mourinho's native Portugal on May 24.
Liverpool hold a five-point lead ahead of Chelsea's trip to Anfield and if the Blues fail to overturn the deficit, serial winner Mourinho will go two successive seasons without winning a league championship for the first time.
If Chelsea, who play Atletico Madrid in Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg with the tie poised at 0-0, miss out on a second European Cup in three years it will be the first time Mourinho has ever gone two successive years without any trophy at all.
Mourinho, the most successful manager in Chelsea's history, said: "I'm not worried about it. I think match after match.
"When you give everything you have, when you try everything, when you work hard, when the group is good, when the group respects the club and the fans, you wait for the end of the season and you see what destiny has for you."