Brendan Rodgers: Luis Suarez Learned His Lesson

Striker faces Old Trafford fans’ abuse over Evra saga but Kop boss praises “one of the strongest-willed characters I’ve ever met”

Brendan Rodgers claims Luis Suarez has finally learned his lesson.

Suarez returns for Liverpool at Manchester United in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup tie after completing his 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

That suspension means he has missed 19 of the Anfield giants’ games for disciplinary reasons since December 2011.

The Reds have worked hard with the controversial striker to curb his bad behaviour, and Rodgers believes Suarez is ready to show the world he is a reformed character.

“I think the test for him will come over time,” said the Liverpool manager. “It won’t just be a one-off game. I think, over time, we will see the lessons learned and that maturity.

“He’s had support in every way. You look at how we work here, and it’s not just tactical and technical development, we look where we can improve their psychological state.

“For me, he just worked tirelessly on every aspect of his game. He’s had a long time to reflect on what happened.

“Now that’s all in the past. The ban is finished, he’s suffered because he hasn’t been playing. Now he’s available and we’re all delighted.”

And Rodgers predicts Suarez “won’t bat an eyelid” over making his comeback in the bearpit atmosphere of Old Trafford.

He is guaranteed a hostile reception at the ground where he caused uproar by snubbing United defender Patrice Evra’s handshake before a February 2012 match between the two clubs that was their first meeting since he served a ban for racially abusing the Frenchman.

When asked if he has any reservations about playing Suarez in this fixture, Rodgers said: “No. I’ve got no hesitation.

“Since I’ve been here, there has never been an issue with anything like that. There is the history of the clash, but it won’t enter my mind.

“He is a tough character. He is resilient and one of the strongest-willed characters I have ever met in my life.

“I don’t think he will bat an eyelid at that.

“I’m sure he’s got family members who are totally different. But he’s a fighter and his will and desire to succeed are out there for everyone to see.”

Rodgers claims Suarez will handle being even more of a marked man if opponents feel they can wind him up because of his volatile temperament.

“I don’t think he will be targeted any more than he has been before,” said the Northern Irishman. “Luis is the type of player who will always provoke the tackle or the challenge.

“The work that he does in and around the box will always put defenders on the back foot. It’s part of the game and, whatever part of the field you play in, you have to put up with that.”

New United boss David Moyes will also be under close scrutiny on Wednesday, because of the champions’ disappointing start to the defence of their Premier League title – including a loss to Liverpool at Anfield last month.

Rodgers can sympathise with the Scot on the challenge of following a legend.

Rodgers, who hopes to mastermind Liverpool’s first cup win at Old Trafford since 1921, had the tough task of succeeding Kenny Dalglish at Anfield and says Moyes must trust his own judgement.

“It’s never easy, given Sir Alex Ferguson’s track record,” he said. “David is having to manage that change.

“I came after Kenny, who is a legend of the club, and you have to put your own mark on it and do things that you see fit.

“It’s the first time people have been able to look at and scrutinise the club [United] for 15 years. A change of manager will always do that.

“But they are the champions. They’ve got the squad there and bought more players so they will be looking to retain that.

“It’s still a champion squad and I’m sure David is looking to make his own mark on it. I’m sure David, like myself, will make every decision that is best for the club.

“He will be better for the experiences of this year and that will help him move them on.”

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