I wouldn't swap Luis Suarez for anyone in the world, says Brendan Rodgers
by James Pearce
BRENDAN RODGERS insists he wouldn't swap Luis Suarez for anyone as the boss warned that any abuse dished out to his striker at Old Trafford will only inspire him.
Tomorrow's lunchtime showdown sees the Premier League's two most prolific hitmen go head to head with Suarez up against Manchester United's Robin van Persie.
Suarez is in the form of his life with 19 goals already this season, while Van Persie has found the net on one more occasion.
"I can't comment on who is better, but I certainly wouldn't want to swap Luis Suarez," said Rodgers.
"We're blessed to have someone like Luis who has carried the club for the first six months of this season by himself, in terms of being a lone striker.
"Every single day he gives everything. I'm very blessed and privileged to work with such a top player."
Suarez is guaranteed a hostile reception from United fans tomorrow following the race row with Patrice Evra and his failure to shake the defender's hand in the corresponding fixture last season.
Rodgers has no concerns about the Uruguayan's ability to keep his cool in the heat of battle, but there will be a reminder to all his players about their responsibilities.
"Luis's character is very strong, and you find that with world class players," he said.
"When he goes on to the field, all the stuff that can get into people's minds, it's not a problem. His mental fitness is very good.
"He has the brain I believe to park things, which is part of what makes him world class.
"He's inspired by those hostile enviroments. I remember talking to Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard when I came in here and they said you'll be amazed by Luis because he performs in every game. They were absolutely spot on.
"He hurts badly when we lose. He really cares and that's why people want to give him help and support. He brings that out of you as a manager.
"This is a proud football club whose tradition is based on values and ethics and good moral values. It's my job to ensure I always protect that.
"That's something I have always done. There have been times in the season where of course I have spoken to Luis and he will tell you that."
Suarez was dogged by controversy once again this week in the wake of the handball which preceded Liverpool's second goal in the 2-1 FA Cup win at Mansfield.
Among his critics was Stags chairman John Radford, who branded Suarez a cheat, accused him of gloating with his celebration and said he should feel ashamed.
Rodgers believes the reaction was hugely unfair but says it hasn't affected his top scorer in the build up to tomorrow's crunch clash.
"I spoke with the Mansfield chairman after the game and he had obviously had a few drinks as the boardroom was buzzing," he added. "Maybe he said a few things he wouldn't have said normally.
"I really felt for Luis this week as he got absolutely vilified. It was ludicrous the amount of stuff that was said against him.
"Does it make a difference to him? No. If anything, it's actually fuel for his mentality because he is so strong.
"The ball hit his hand. It's not his problem to say it was handball. If you are playing snooker and you touch the ball and the other player doesn't see it, you put your hand up. That's the etiquette of the game.
"But that doesn't happen in football."