Brendan Rodgers has not revealed whether Luis Suarez will start on his return to the Liverpool squad in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup third-round tie at Manchester United, but paid tribute to the forward’s preparations for his return. Suarez has now completed his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and, despite his efforts to leave Anfield over the summer, the Liverpool boss believes his return is a massive boost.
“It has been a really difficult time for him in terms of not playing games,” Rodgers said, according to Liverpool’s official website. “But I've got to say, how he has prepared himself over the last number of weeks has been fantastic, with his attitude in training and everything.
"He'll travel with us and we'll reflect in the next 24 hours whether he starts or not. Having someone of that quality back into your squad gives everyone a lift.”
Suarez’s return is timely, given that Philippe Coutinho is ruled out for another month with a shoulder injury. Rodgers is set to select a strong lineup for a clash with Liverpool’s long-time rivals. However, it has been confirmed that Daniel Agger is a doubt after being forced off with a knock to his ribs in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Southampton.
Manchester United boss David Moyes is also expected to field a strong side, following the ignominy of Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to Manchester City. The former Everton boss understands that the League Cup has often been used by United to give young players experience, but hinted that a match with Liverpool means that more experience is required.
“I think my idea was always to focus on every competition,” he said, according to Manchester United’s website. “It's always been the way here to win. In many ways the Capital One Cup has been a route to give as many young players an opportunity as we can.
“I think the draw sometimes in the Capital One Cup is the reason sometimes you can do that. Obviously this is a really big tie that has come out of the hat first.”
Moyes will again not be able to call upon the services of Robin van Persie, with only an outside chance that the striker will return to fitness for Saturday’s clash with West Brom. Defenders Phil Jones and Rafael remain on the sidelines.
Betting odds: Manchester United are favorites to get the win, priced at 13/10 with Bet 365. A Liverpool victory is available at 12/5, which is the same price on offer for a draw.
Prediction: A match between the most successful sides in the history of English soccer was always going to take on more importance than a regular League Cup tie. But the return of Suarez, coupled with poor results for both teams at the weekend mean it is even more intriguing.
Arguably, the match has even more significance for United and Moyes. His side has taken just a single point from three matches against top opposition under his leadership, including a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool earlier this month. Without Van Persie there will be no easy fixes on Wednesday. His midfield has to do a better job of imposing itself, while Moyes will need to be bolder going forward and trust in the creativity of Shinji Kagawa and potentially even the exciting youngster Adnan Januzaj. However, Moyes’ reactive instincts are strongly ingrained and it make some time, if ever, before he loosens the shackles in his new role in charge of a one of the world’s biggest clubs.
The return of Suarez should provide a significant boost for a Liverpool side that looked devoid of ideas in the final third during their first defeat of the season at the weekend. Rodgers does, though, face the challenge of getting the best out of both Suarez and the in-form Daniel Sturridge. With Coutinho out, Suarez is likely to start behind Sturridge and that combination could give a United defense that has looked less than solid plenty of trouble.
It is a match that should be tightly fought and may well go all the way to extra time and even penalties, but the slight edge has to go to the home side.
Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool
Where to watch: The Capital One Cup third-round tie will kick-off from Old Trafford at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.