Rodgers backs returning 'fighter' Suarez to come out all guns blazing at Old Trafford
Brendan Rodgers believes the cauldron of a Liverpool versus Manchester United fixture is the ideal setting for Luis Suarez to end his exile from English football, but admits only time will tell if the Uruguayan has learned lessons from his misdemeanours.
Five months and 10 senior games since being suspended for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, Suarez makes his return in what is usually an incendiary fixture.
Rodgers says he has no doubts the striker will be as committed as ever to the Liverpool jersey, despite openly seeking a transfer during the summer.
"There has never been an issue with anything like that," said Rodgers. "He is a tough character. He is resilient and one of the strongest-willed characters I have ever met in my life.
"He is a fighter and his will and desire to succeed is out there for everyone to see. We are just delighted to have him back. I know the players are happy we are bringing someone back of that quality.
"When Luis knew he would be available for the fixture, it would have really stoked him up to make sure he was even more ready. You could argue that this is a real good game for him to come back to."
While there is no doubting his ability, Suarez's volatile temperament is a different matter. Rodgers acknowledges that an assessment on whether that is under control will be based on much more than a game against United.
"I think that test will come over time," he said. "It won't be a one-off game. I think over time we will see the lessons learned and that maturity. I don't think he will be targeted any more than he has been before. Luis is that type of player. He will always provoke the tackle or the challenge. The work that he does in and around the box will always make defenders be on the back foot.
"He will just be happy to pull on the shirt for real. It doesn't matter where that would be, whether it was Old Trafford or another stadium. I think he can't wait to get out there."
Rodgers is prepared to play a strong line-up at Old Trafford, firstly because he is short of numbers due to injuries to Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Philippe Coutinho and Joe Allen, but also because – without European football – the League Cup is a competition he is eager to give full commitment.
"This is a competition we would like to win. Last year was a situation where, with the Europa League, our squad was so thin.
"This year we have three competitions and we want to attack every one with as much verve and desire as we can, no matter who the opponent is."
The stakes for a competition usually considered low on the priority list of both clubs have been raised by Suarez's return, Liverpool's defeat against Southampton last weekend and the mounting pressure on new Manchester United manager David Moyes.
Rodgers can empathise with his opposite number, recognising the peculiar difficulties when taking over the manager's job from a club legend.
"It is never easy taking over from someone with Alex Ferguson's track record," he said.
"David is having to manage that change. I came after Kenny Dalglish, who is a legend of the club. It is a different pressure all together. You have to put your own mark on it.
"I'm sure David, like myself, will make every decision that is best for the club. He will be better for the experiences of this year and that will help him move them on.
"It's the first time people have been able to look at and scrutinise the club for 15 years. A change of manager will always do that. But they are the champions.
"They've got the squad there and bought more players so they will be looking to retain that. It's still a champion squad. They've still got the quality players." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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