Luis Suarez Ready to Replace Injured Philippe Coutinho Despite Flop on Return

Ben Blackmore@@Blackmore_BRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2013

BANGKOK, THAILAND - JULY 27: Luis Suarez of Liverpool FC laughs during a Liverpool FC training session at Rajamangala Stadium on July 27, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.  (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)
Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

Luis Suarez completed his first 90 minutes of the season for Liverpool on Wednesday, but they did not go according to plan as he failed to score in a 2-0 defeat to Burnley’s Development Squad.

Liverpool have pitched their Uruguayan star into a series of behind-closed-doors games during his ongoing 10-game suspension, but as he prepares to complete that ban this weekend, Liverpool management decided it was time to test Suarez for a full match.

However, he was upstaged by two first-half goals, as reported by Burnley’s official website:

The opener came from New Zealand international (Cameron) Howieson in the 17th minute as the midfielder curled a 25-yard free kick into the top corner.

And (Steven) Hewitt doubled the advantage in the 26th minute, tapping home from close range from Luke O’Neill’s pinpoint cross.

The importance of Suarez to Liverpool was intensified this week by news that Philippe Coutinho may not play again until November. Coutinho requires surgery on a shoulder injury picked up at Swansea, as the Daily Mail's Dominic King reported.

Brendan Rodgers will have to cope without both Suarez and the Brazilian for Saturday’s visit of Southampton, but last season’s top scorer is then free to return—starting with the League Cup trip to Manchester United.

Rodgers says he has no issue throwing Suarez into that game, according to David Anderson of the Daily Mirror, despite the inflammatory atmosphere that will greet him following a previous ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

It’s not the same as playing in a match, but say he did 1,000 high-intensity runs in a game, he has been replicating that in training, so that he’s at a level, where we hope he will hit the ground running.

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’m really looking forward to having him back.

He’s working his socks off. He’s flushing himself out to the maximum to be as fit as he possibly can.

If Suarez does return at Old Trafford, the focus will be on him for a multitude of reasons, not least the sour relationship he has with Manchester United.

The controversial forward is under pressure to restore his reputation after the ugly biting incident that led to his latest suspension, while he has plenty to prove to Liverpool fans and bosses after declaring his wish to leave the club.

Liverpool have coped admirably in Suarez’s absence, winning seven and drawing two of the nine games he has missed. They are yet to lose since his shameful attack on Branislav Ivanovic.

Had Coutinho been fit, Rodgers may well have been tempted to hold Suarez back in order to keep a steady ship. There is a clear team ethic at Liverpool right now, which does not need the unsettling influence of somebody who wants to leave.

However, with Coutinho injured, the Reds are light upfront. Daniel Sturridge is in prolific form—scoring in every game he has played this season, and Victor Moses made a fine debut at Swansea.

But Iago Aspas has found himself rushed and bullied so far in his short Premier League existence, so Suarez will likely walk straight back into the side.

Rodgers’ only big decision will be whether to risk his top scorer from last season in the spiteful surroundings of a Manchester United vs. Liverpool cup tie. Deep down he will know it is the type of fixture Suarez will relish, unlike a behind-closed-doors match with Burnley.