Luis Suárez makes his Premier League return today when Liverpool takes on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. And with him could come a boost to Liverpool’s chances to stay in the title race this season.
Liverpool got off to a quick start to the season without Suárez thanks to some solid defense and the goal scoring of Daniel Sturridge. But after picking up nine points in their first three games, the squad has cooled off, adding just a single point in a tie against Swansea City before losing a lackluster effort against Southampton.
For all the success that Liverpool has had in the opening stages of the season, they have still struggled to score goals – the one thing that Suárez does as well as anyone. Having another player that can find the back of the net will take some of the pressure off Sturridge and give manager Brendan Rodgers some more options to create mismatches and confusion for the defense on the pitch.
But Rodgers has to be careful, because it’s not as simple as dropping Suárez into the lineup.
“It will be interesting to see whether (Rodgers) puts Suárez or Sturridge in a wide position,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher told ESPN recently. “I don’t think either Sturridge or Suárez are really comfortable in the No. 10 role, because if you are that you’ve got to put a defensive shift in.”
In addition to figuring out the best way to use Suárez and Sturridge in the lineup, Rodgers has to always deal with the possibility that the mercurial Suárez will decide to do something stupid on the pitch.
For now, Rodgers has Suárez’ back.
“He is one of the most determined people I have ever met in my life,” Rodgers said of Suárez. “When you have been out for so long, he was never going to be fazed by it. This is such a unique club where they support the players who wear the shirt.”
And, it turns out, it is not just Suárez that Rodgers has to worry about; he also has to deal with managing director Ian Ayre, who earlier this week talked about how Suárez has damaged the Liverpool brand.
As for Suárez, he is contrite as ever for his past transgressions.
“I know it was a difficult moment, but for myself and for the team it’s very important that I’m back because I can help the team,” Suárez said earlier in the week. “All the time I try my best on the pitch. I’m here to help the team and help Liverpool and I’ll try my best.”
All that aside, it is what happens on the pitch that matters the most and Liverpool is getting Suárez back at a very opportune time.
The Premier League is a bit of a jumble right now, with no one outside of Arsenal (and possibly Tottenham Hotspur) playing anything resembling dominant football. Adding a player as talented as Suárez could potentially make Liverpool the envy of the league.
If they can take care of business against Sunderland, a club that currently sits at the bottom of the table with just one point and does not have a permanent manger, then the Reds would wake up Monday morning just two points back of Arsenal. (And six points clear of the floundering Manchester United, it needs to be pointed out.)
Get by Sunderland, and Liverpool faces Crystal Palace (currently 19th with three points), Newcastle United (currently 15th with seven points) and West Bromwich Albion (currently in the middle of the table).
Suárez’ return should give the Reds the kind of boost that could propel them through that stretch in fine form, setting up a major showdown on Nov. 2 against Arsenal at the Emirates.
Welcome back, Luis.
Liverpool supporters never thought they’d be so happy to see you again.