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Thursday 14 December 2017

Suarez a new man since bite -- Rodgers

Liverpool's Luis Suarez
Liverpool's Luis Suarez

Graham Chase

Brendan Rodgers has revealed the extent of Luis Suarez's anguish after the striker bit Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, but Liverpool's manager believes the incident has made their stand-in captain a better person and player.

Suarez was suspended for 10 matches for biting Ivanovic in the 2-2 draw at Anfield in April and subsequently failed in an attempt to force his way out of Anfield in the summer.

The Uruguayan faces Chelsea for the first time since the Ivanovic incident at Stamford Bridge today, having scored 19 goals in his 13 league appearances since the ban ended in September.

Rodgers feels that the suspension, which came 15 months after the Uruguayan was given an eight-game ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra, was a turning point for the 26-year-old.

The Liverpool manager believes he is now happier on the field and less aggressive towards referees. Rodgers also admits that the period was his most testing as a coach and is certain that Suarez can cope with a negative reception at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.

"There was a lot of self-reflection and he probably thought he couldn't have gone any lower," Rodgers admitted. "I know he was in a real bad place at the time and sometimes in life it takes you to get to that point and you have to assess it and you go one of two ways.

"In that period there were a lot of difficult moments for him but as he became closer to staying and realising he was going to be playing fairly quickly, he's been exemplary in his behaviour. On the pitch everyone can see the maturity and his level of performance speaks for itself.

"I can't remember exactly what I said to him immediately after the incident, but I felt he needed to get away totally as soon as he could. I brought him in and we had a conversation that will remain private.

"His wife's family are in Barcelona so I sent him away because he needed to get out of the country. There's no doubt it was the lowest moment of his career and he probably felt the world was against him. But that's provided the trigger for him to recuperate and he's been outstanding.

"I think supporters around the country marvel at the talent of him and he's gaining the understanding of the culture here. That's key to it as well.

"It was a real test. You don't learn [how to deal with something like] that when you're doing your coaching courses."

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