LIVERPOOL’S PRE-SEASON ENDED in defeat this evening but rather than talking about how his team lost out to a makeshift Celtic side, Brendan Rodgers again fielded questions on Luis Suarez in his post-match press conference.
Yesterday evening, Rodgers spoke confidently about the Uruguayan returning to the first-team set-up once he had “got his head around” the fact that they had no plans to sell him to Arsenal. When quizzed on what Suarez would need to do before he was accepted back into the group, however, the Reds boss made it clear that his wantaway striker would first need to say sorry to the players and the fans.
“There will be a couple of things,” said Rodgers. “Initially, there will be a recognition and an apology to his team-mates and the club. Once we get that commitment that he is ready to fight like he has always done (he will return).
“When I see how he has been over a period of time I know it’s not the Luis Suarez that we know. I have to protect the fans and great supporters of this club. And the players, because they deserve more than that.
“When he comes back from his international duty we’ll assess it from there.”
One centre forward who looked eager to return to first team action this evening was Daniel Sturridge. The England international has been out of action since May when he injured his ankle in the international friendly against Ireland at Wembley.
Named on the bench for the Dublin Decider, the former Chelsea and Man City man received a warm reception when he came out to warm-up at half-time before his introduction. And although he is no doubt lacking sharpness, Sturridge looked a threat in the second half and linked up well with Brazilian schemer Philippe Coutinho.
Rodgers was clearly pleased to have the player back to bulk up his strike force ahead of next week’s Premier League curtain-raiser at home to Stoke.
I thought he was excellent,” explained Rodgers. “You seen the difference when he came on with his power, pace and link up play with Coutinho which was great. He’s been working hard to get fit and has looked really strong in training this week. With 45 minutes today and a game behind closed doors, we’ll assess him after that. He looked very good.”
On Coutinho, he added: “He has been fantastic since he has come in. He’s a wonderful football player, a real to watch. He is very effective, creates opportunities and is disappointed he didn’t score today. We’ve got some top players here – Gerrard, Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge are all on that same wavelength.
“Their interplay and how they combine is very promising so we’re really looking forward to the start of the season. It has been a long pre-season but the players have worked extremely hard and are in real great shape and are itching to get going.”