Liverpool’s victory over Wolves also marked the end of Suarez’s 8 game ban. That means he will be eligible to be picked for the home game against Spurs, followed by the away game against United. I expect between now and Monday there will be a lot of headlines that involve Suarez, and his return. So what will Kenny do for the Spurs game?
It has to be said that two game aside, Liverpool have played well in Suarez’s absence. They may have missed his mesmerising dribbling talents, but Bellamy has stepped up to the plate during that time and performed admirably. However, it also has to be said that Suarez is a sublime player that can unlock defences. If we are to go for top 4, we need to continue this winning run, and beat both Spurs and United, before worrying about the cup. That won’t be easy, with Spurs currently in 3rd and looking good squad wise, and United joint top and smarting from that FA Cup exit.
I would assume that Kenny will most likely pick Suarez to play some part in the Spurs game. It just makes sense all around. First of all, it is a home game, and he will no doubt get a massive cheer whether he starts or comes off the bench from the Anfield crowd. That could be crucial, otherwise his first came back is likely to be booed at every opportunity at Old Trafford. Secondly, it also gives him some much needed match practise before that Man United game, so he can be in top form to be able to make Evra look like a fool. The final reason is of course that he is Suarez. He is one of our best players and similar to Stevie G you expect him to be on the team sheet when available. This wasn’t some injury he is coming back from, but with it being 8 matches you have to wonder how match fit he actually is. I know he has been training but fitness and match fitness are two completely different things.
So, with him likely to play some part that leaves two key questions. The first is whether he actually starts, and the second being what does that mean for the rest of the team. Whether he starts will come down to how well he trains, and what the relevant specialists at Liverpool say. It will also come down to Kenny’s tactics. Kenny has been 5 midfield players and 1 forward, and it has been, by and large, working well. Obviously with Suarez gone that has been Andy Carroll, but will Kenny be tempted to go with 2 strikers or will he stick to the 1 striker system. Obviously if he elects to change to 2 strikers, then you would expect both Suarez and Carroll to start, with maybe Jordan Henderson making way. If he elects to play one striker only then it will hinge on whether Suarez is deemed match fit to start, and whether Kenny wants to start with Carroll or Suarez leading the line.
What does not help here is the fact that it is against Spurs. It would have been a far simpler decision if it had been a lower team. Had the ban ended before the Wolves game I would expect Suarez to have started. However, with Spurs playing well, and with a victory being crucial it is possible that we will see Suarez start on the bench, and then have Carroll make way for Suarez in the second half. It remains to be seen whether Bellamy is fit, and of course it is possible that Kenny might be tempted to play Suarez as a replacement for Bellamy but I would assume Downing would be more likely to get the nod. If Suarez starts up front, it would seem harsh on Andy Carroll who has worked tirelessly and was finally rewarded with another goal last night.
If Kenny elects to go with 2 strikers, with Suarez playing off Carroll, then obviously one of the midfield will have to make way. I would expect that Stevie will play, and either Bellamy or Downing on the left (depending largely on Bellamy’s knee), and probably Kuyt on the right, which would mean Henderson losing out. It is possible that Henderson may well play instead of Kuyt but with Kuyt finding his scoring form you would think he’s probably get the nod ahead of Henderson.
I would love to think that Suarez can return to the team and slot into a fantastic new partnership with Carroll but again with it not having happened in the past, and with this being a big game, I would think it would be unlikely for Kenny to change the system, bring in a player that hasn’t played in a couple of months, and revert back to a strike partnership that has failed to blossom. It may well be that he decides to maybe leave that for the FA Cup game against Brighton and possibly the final against Cardiff.