Liverpool v Sunderland: Redemption of Luis Suarez nears stunning finale as Reds challenge for Premier League title
Controversial Liverpool striker closing in on footballer of the year award ahead of Sunderland clash
Wednesday 26 March 2014
If he does complete the transformation from villain to footballer of the year, Luis Suarez's journey to redemption actually began against Sunderland.
His captain, Steven Gerrard, admitted he had not expected to see him in a Liverpool shirt again in the wake of his 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic. And yet here he was on Wearside in September, having scored the first of his two goals and then pulling up the club's black away strip to reveal a T-shirt welcoming his son Benjamin into the world.
Liverpool were second then and today, as they prepared to face Sunderland at Anfield on Wednesday night, they were second again. Suarez's contribution has been 26 more goals and the establishment of the kind of strike partnership with Daniel Sturridge the club has not seen since Robbie Fowler was paired with Stan Collymore. In terms of football, there appears to be no other candidate to become footballer of the year, though Eden Hazard might run the Uruguayan close.
"I wouldn't have thought there were any reasons why he wouldn't win," said his manager, Brendan Rodgers. "But nothing surprises me in this country. It's quite nice for people to see the other side of him.
"It would be a wonderful step forward in his life and his career if he gets it. In the dressing room, he's up for every game. He is a real pillar of our team, which is why I had no hesitation making him skipper against Tottenham. Of course, he makes me earn my money at times but he is a good man and he has been incredible for Liverpool."
Suarez was touched by the offer of the armband. He felt it proved Liverpool had forgiven him and his redemption carries echoes of Eric Cantona's return from a 10-month ban for assaulting a spectator in 1995. Cantona also scored on his return, against Liverpool, and finished up with the Football Writers' Association version of the footballer of the year award – the players, who vote absurdly early in March, went for Newcastle's Les Ferdinand. Cantona also won something rather more precious for Manchester United: a league title.
On the surface, Sunderland, who have not won at Anfield since October 1983, seem a very straightforward home win. And yet they have taken more points from teams in the top half of the table than the bottom half and earned more points away than at home.
"Of all our remaining games, this could be the most dangerous because people expect us to win," said Rodgers. "Sunderland have shown against the big clubs that they come to the party. If they had done that more often, they probably wouldn't be where they are now."
Latest in Sport
Berbatov flees Bulgaria following kidnap threat
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund player ratings: Who was the star man at the Emirates? Alexis Sanchez? Santi Cazorla? Or Yaya Sanogo?
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Per Mertesacker delighted with defensive display
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund match report: Yaya Sanogo and Alexis Sanchez on target as Gunners secure impressive victory
This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 1 'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
- 2 Ridley Scott on Exodus: Gods and Kings casting: 'I'm not going to get it financed if my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such'
- 3 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 4 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict