Writer: Gavin Kelley-Day
Date:Thursday September 19 2013
Kop boss Brendan Rodgers has given an insight into the club's quest to prepare Luis Suarez for his eagerly anticipated comeback...
Liverpool star Luis Suarez is now just one match away from a competitive return following his controversial 10-match domestic ban.
The Uruguayan striker last appeared in a Liverpool's line-up during an eventful 2-2 Premier League draw with Chelsea on April 21.
It was in that game that the ex-Ajax man inexplicably bit opposing defender Branislav Ivanovic; an action which saw him rightly charged with violent conduct.
The subsequent punishment has bookended two seasons and contributed heavily to his determination to look for a new club in between.
A move never materialised, despite offers from Arsenal, and in recent weeks the focus has moved onto stepping up Suarez's fitness in readiness for a scheduled return in the Capital One Cup next week.
In addition to international matches with Uruguay, the 26-year-old has participated in a number of behind closed doors friendlies.
The latest of which took place against Burnley at Liverpool's Melwood training ground on Wednesday with Suarez completing the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 defeat.
A focused training regime has also been implemented in an attempt to mimic the striker's specific exertions in a match situation.
As Brendan Rodgers explained to reporters earlier: "He has been doing a lot of individual work, specific to him on top of all that [friendlies and internationals] and replicating his high intensity speed runs that he would do in a game.
"It is not the same as playing in a match but say he did 100 high intensity runs in a game, he has been replicating that in training so that he is at a level where we hope he will hit the ground running.
"There are always other things in a game - the crowd and the anxiety you cannot replicate that in training - but what you can at least do is get him to a level of fitness so that his numbers are replicated and that keeps him at a high level.
"The idea is that hopefully when he steps back in it will be seamless. Of course there will be a transitional period for him but I am really looking forward to having him back.
"He is working his socks off. At the end of sessions, he is having extra work tagged on relative to him and his position. He is flushing himself out to the maximum to be as fit as he possibly can."
The final game of Suarez's suspension is against Southampton on Saturday and, ironically, his return will be against bitter rivals Manchester United.
It was, of course, against the Red Devils where the enigmatic forward first blotted his copybook with English football authorities in an alleged act of racism.
Suarez still disputes the incident involving Patrice Evra and even suggests it resulted in victimisation towards him when it came to determining the length of his current punishment.
Such moments have overshadowed his phenomenal exploits on the pitch and a superb scoring record of 51 goals in just 96 appearances for the Merseysiders.
It is without doubt this side of Suarez that Liverpool fans have missed most and his return is potentially a timely one for a side relying heavily on Daniel Sturridge for goals and now without the creative talents of Philippe Coutinho through injury.
It is testament to Suarez's sublime talent that few are worried that his return will unsettle the team. Although unbeaten so far this season, Liverpool with Suarez in the line-up are a much stronger proposition than Liverpool without. Hopefully this time he will stay away from negative headlines and let his feet deal with the action unfolding as opposed to his mouth!
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Date:Thursday September 19 2013
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