Suarez gets a raw deal 'because he is foreign'
LIVERPOOL manager Brendan Rodgers says Luis Suarez's on-field misdemeanours this season would have been "laughed off" if he was British.
As Suarez prepares to face Tottenham's Gareth Bale in what is seen as the latest episode in their race for the Player of the Year crown, Rodgers could not resist observing the reaction – or lack of – to Bale's midweek booking for diving.
The Welshman received his fourth caution of the season for going to ground too easily, earning a suspension for his indiscretion against Inter Milan in the last-16 tie of the Europa League.
Suarez has been cautioned three times in his two-year Liverpool career for the same offence and both he and Bale carry their unwanted reputation for unnecessarily hitting the deck into their encounter this weekend.
Rodgers, however, believes the contrasting reactions to identical incidents prove Suarez is getting a raw deal. It is particularly galling for Rodgers as he has already stated he believes Suarez will lose out on the Player of the Year award because of non-footballing issues.
Rodgers has hinted at xenophobia against the striker previously and argued there is a willingness to brush the topic to one side with players from the home nations but make it the main focus when an overseas star is the culprit.
"I know if that had been Luis I would have been sat there answering questions for about half an hour," he said.
"That's why I defend Luis. If players or people are judging him on his football then he's been consistently the best player right the way through the season. If they are going to judge him on things outside of football, then they won't be just judging him and they can't just judge him, because there have been misdemeanours by other players.
"It's 'funny' and 'quite enjoyable' when it happens to a British player, but when it's a foreign player? It's different. Because he is a foreign player he gets labelled more. If a British player does it, we would maybe laugh about it. But that's a part of life and football.
"We hope we are judging him by his qualities on the field and those have been evident. I can only protect my player and judge him from what we see."
Rodgers says he believes Suarez has shown a determination to adapt to the culture of the English game, eradicating diving to avoid the controversies of earlier in the season.
The Reds boss said those incidents were a consequence of the striker's upbringing, where it is accepted, but recent incidents show the British game is in no position to take the moral high ground.
"You can clearly see with Luis that he has taken on board everything, speaks with his team-mates and you can see that change in him," he said. "He is trying to turn around his life and adapt to the culture. I have given him responsibility on the field as one of my main guys and you can see that maturity in his performance. His football is outstanding and, hopefully, it continues."
Last summer, Bale was the one passing comment on Liverpool's players when he branded Charlie Adam "a coward" after being injured in a pre-season friendly in America. There is no evidence of any bad blood simmering since then, especially since Adam left Anfield, but Rodgers' comments will add some spice to the meeting tomorrow .
Spurs can end any glimmer of hope Liverpool retain in their pursuit of the top four, a top-six finish more realistic.
Daniel Sturridge has returned from a thigh injury and Martin Skrtel has also rejoined the squad.
As for Suarez, he is looking for his 50th Liverpool goal, and his sights are on Robbie Fowler's Premier League club record of 28 in a season. It is clear he would swap any record for a late charge into the top four.
"There is a slight chance we can make Champions League football – and if we want to do that, this is the sort of game we need to win," Suarez said. "I don't know if I am in the very best scoring form of my life, but certainly I am enjoying a bit of what every striker needs and that is a little bit of luck." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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