Liverpool v Chelsea: Brendan Rodgers praises 'brilliant talent' Luis Suarez for maturing over the course of the season

Suarez has gone from public enemy number one to a Reds' hero and Rodgers believes he has been the outstanding player of the season

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes striker Luis Suarez's transformation from public enemy number one to likely Footballer of the Year is a true credit to the player.

Just over 12 months ago the Uruguay international was starting a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in one of the most bizarre incidents of last season.

The pair are set to come face to face again at the scene of the crime on Sunday but Suarez arrives at Anfield as a completely different person.

Having served his punishment, which extended five matches into the current campaign, the 27-year-old's performances have been nothing short of remarkable producing a return of 30 goals in as many Premier League games with three hat-tricks - including four goals in a 5-1 win over Norwich in December.

That means he is the favourite to lift the Professional Footballers' Association's player of the year title on Sunday evening and with it complete his rehabilitation from a player opponents and fans loved to hate to one who is fully appreciated for his world-class quality.

 

"He is a brilliant talent. I think the supporters have seen him mature over the course of the last season," said Rodgers.

"I think he was in a real low moment after that game (against Chelsea last year) but he has gone away and probably looked in the mirror and reflected on himself because he is not that type of guy and it probably just spilled over.

"He is a really intelligent man who fits the values of this club, which is all about humility, class and he has all of that.

"He is a sheer winner and that probably overspilled last year, but his development over the last year has been remarkable both on and off the field and Liverpool have benefited from that.

"For me he is the consistently outstanding player over the course of the last year."

Suarez's goals have helped lift Liverpool within touching distance of their first league title in 24 years.

Their five-point lead at the top means victory over the visitors would end the Stamford Bridge side's hopes of winning the league and make it a two-horse race with Manchester City, with the Merseysiders already ahead by half-a-length.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has suggested he will field a weakened side as he has one eye on a finely-balanced Champions League semi-final second leg at home to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, but Rodgers is not buying it.

"They are an outstanding team with lots of good players and a world-class manager," he said.

"Thankfully for us, we're playing at Anfield, where we have great support behind us and they'll be important.

"We don't change. We are a team who are very aggressive in our attack.

"Of course you have to look at the opponents' strengths and be aware Chelsea's qualities are on the counter-attack - they have fast players, they will sit deep in a low block with men behind the ball.

"For us it is about us playing our game and the opponent worrying about our strength and us ensuring we are close and compact when we haven't got the ball."

What will change for Liverpool, now they are guaranteed Champions League football with a finish no lower than third, is the quality of player they will be able to attract in the summer.

"We're going to need depth to our squad - there's no question about that," said Rodgers.

"And certainly, this summer Liverpool Football Club becomes a really exciting and attractive proposition for players.

"That's something that we'll continue to look at and continue to work on, to get those talents into the club to help grow and develop the squad.

"We've got targets; we know we need to improve - we're in the Champions League now, so we can say that."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015