Jose Mourinho has praised Luis Suarez ahead of Chelsea’s meeting with Liverpool on Sunday, as the Uruguayan is reunited for the first time with the side against whom his most notorious indiscretion occurred.
Suarez’s bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April cost him a 10 match ban and widespread condemnation. His subsequent attempts to engineer a move away from Anfield in the summer damaged his reputation further, but Mourinho, who explained that everyone involved has moved on from the biting incident, heaped plaudits on the way Suarez has responded this season.
“Every player is different and has his own personality,” Mourinho said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “There are some players that want to leave and after that it depends on them when they are forced to stay, it depends on whether they want to have their revenge in a negative way by not performing, not being interested or committed.
“But they can also say look at me, I'm a professional and I want to do my work in the proper way, so it depends more on the player's personality.”
Mourinho can currently only wish for a player of Suarez’s goal-scoring ability. While Suarez has 19 goals already to his name in the Premier League this season, Chelsea’s three strikers -- Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba -- have only five between them.
Perhaps influenced by that lack of ability leading the line, Mourinho has seemingly switched the focus to ensuring that Chelsea do not concede goals. Following a goalless draw with Arsenal, Chelsea beat Swansea City 1-0 on Boxing Day. Confirming this new emphasis, David Luiz asserted that the squad are now adapting to Mourinho’s principles.
“It's not just good for the defense but for the whole team,' the defender points out,” he told Chelsea’s official website.
“Our more attacking players are starting to understand our philosophy and how we need to play in a defensive way sometimes, so that is good for everyone. When you don't concede goals you are always nearer to winning, and that is our mentality now.”
Scoring goals has not been a problem for Liverpool, with only Manchester City having scored more than them in the league this campaign. It was City who ended Liverpool’s run of four-straight wins by inflicting a 2-1 defeat on the Merseysiders at the Etihad last time out. Liverpool still emerged with plenty of credit in defeat, however, with Brendan Rodgers left to rue key officiating decisions gone against them.
On Sunday Rodgers will be in familiar surroundings having previously coached Chelsea’s youth team and reserves. During that time he worked with the man he’ll come up against as manager for the first time at Stamford Bridge. And Rodgers has nothing but praise for Mourinho.
“I probably wouldn't be sat here today if it wasn't for him," he said, according to Liverpool’s official website. "When I speak and hear about Jose, it's first and foremost as a friend.
"From the first time I met him, one evening in September 2004, he had come into the club earlier that summer, and when I was invited to speak to him about my role, we hit it off straight away.
"From that moment in time he gave me the self-esteem and the confidence that has prepared me greatly for the role that I am in today. I've been fortunate enough to work with a lot of good people in football and I've learned a lot from many people, but the one thing I got from Jose was the details.”
Rodgers confirmed that injured quartet Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Jon Flanagan and Jose Enrique remain on the sidelines. Victor Moses is ineligible to take on his former club. Chelsea will be without midfielder Ramires, who misses out having picked up his fifth booking of the season last time out.
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.