Glen Johnson backs Luis Suarez ahead of Old Trafford trip

 

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson believes Luis Suarez's strength of character will get him through the trial which awaits him at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The Uruguay international returned from his eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra as a substitute in last night's goalless draw at home to Tottenham.

He certainly made his presence felt in a 24-minute cameo, getting booked for kicking Scott Parker in the stomach and missing a late headed chance to win the game.

However, the appreciative response from the Anfield crowd on his first appearance since Boxing Day will be replaced by a hostile atmosphere at the home of their arch rivals at the weekend.

The traditionally fiery encounter between England's two most successful clubs will come under even more scrutiny as Suarez comes face to face with Evra on the pitch for the first time since their clash in October.

But Johnson is confident that after being sidelined for six weeks the 25-year-old striker will be keen to focus on playing football again.

"It is a tough place to go Old Trafford. Luis is a strong character and he will try to let his football do the talking," said the England international.

"He is a fantastic player, he has had a long break now and hopefully he will be fresh and ready to put in a performance at the weekend.

"He is the sort of player we need in the team."

Team-mate Martin Kelly, who against Spurs made his first Barclays Premier League start since the now-infamous United game at Anfield on October 15, sees Suarez having a key part to play in the remainder of the season.

"The crowd gave us a lift when they saw Luis coming on and it's fantastic to have him back," said the 21-year-old.

"He'll be a big help for us over the next few weeks when we've got big games coming up and he'll be there ready for the (Carling Cup) final."

Manager Kenny Dalglish, Suarez's staunchest defender, risked re-opening the row over his lengthy suspension when he stated after the match he did not think the striker should have been banned at all.

But he, more than anyone, was delighted to have the player available for selection again.

"We are pleased and encouraged he is back," said the Scot.

"Every time he gets the ball in and around the box expectation levels rise and it is just unfortunate we couldn't get anything from it."

Liverpool are in need of the livewire South American's energy and trickery after yet another frustrating draw at Anfield.

Having failed to break down a steely Spurs side they became the first top flight side to draw at least eight of their first 12 home matches since Manchester United in the 1980/1981 season - when the Red Devils finished eighth.

Liverpool have picked up 20 points at Anfield and 19 away, compared to the end of last season when it was a 40:18 split, and having the Premier League's lowest chance-to-goal conversion rate (around 9%) is damaging their hopes of a top-four finish.

The Reds are still only four points off Chelsea, who currently occupy the final Champions League qualification spot, but that only highlights how costly 16 dropped points at home have been.

"When you hear stats like that it doesn't sound good at all but I don't think performances have reflected that," added Johnson.

"We have been playing better than the eight draws out of 12 shows but that is football.

"It is always frustrating when you don't win and you play as well as that (against Spurs).

"They are a fantastic team and we did enough to win the game but it was one of those days.

"They had pace on the break and so they set up deep and tried to catch us on the counter and that is difficult to break down at times.

"We had a couple of decent chances and sometimes in games like that you only get one and you take it and win it 1-0."

PA

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