LONDON, December 28- Liverpool striker Luis Suarez will come up against Chelsea on Sunday for the first time since being banned for biting the London club’s Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic last season.
The incident, in a 2-2 draw at Anfield in April, saw Suarez widely castigated, and came at a time when Liverpool were drifting towards a fourth consecutive placing outside the Premier League’s top five.
Now, however, they are in the thick of the title race and despite losing 2-1 at Manchester City on Thursday, they visit Stamford Bridge only a point behind Jose Mourinho’s side.
Suarez, meanwhile, is in the best form of his Liverpool career, having scored 19 times in the 13 games he has played since completing a 10-match ban for sinking his teeth into Ivanovic’s forearm.
In stark contrast, Chelsea’s three strikers — Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba — have scored only five goals between them.
Eden Hazard came to the rescue against Swansea City on Thursday, scoring the game’s only goal, but Mourinho has admitted that he would prefer not to have to expose his team to the threat posed by Suarez.
“Maybe Suarez got a little injury,” Mourinho joked.
“I’m not asking for a big injury. A little injury to stop him playing for four days.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is better placed than most when it comes to taking on Mourinho, having worked beneath him at Chelsea during the Portuguese coach’s first spell at the club between 2004 an 2007.
The Northern Irishman has been asked to explain himself by the Football Association after criticising the performance of referee Lee Mason in the defeat by City, but he drew encouragement from his side’s performance.
Liverpool impressed in the game at the Etihad Stadium and might have come away with a draw had it not been for some wayward second-half finishing, and Rodgers is now looking forward to the challenge of tackling Chelsea.
“For us it couldn’t be any tougher,” Rodgers said.
“We’re playing against the two teams who arguably have the two best squads in the league.
“They can change all their players and still have a team that challenges at the top of the table. We’ll go into the game and do our best. That’s what we have done.
“The quality of our game is demonstrating that we’re improving. And whoever we put in there is going to focus on getting a result for the football club.”
Neither Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard nor young full-back Jon Flanagan are ready to return from hamstring injuries, while on-loan Chelsea forward Victor Moses is unable to play under the terms of his loan contract.
They join striker Daniel Sturridge (ankle) and left-back Jose Enrique (knee) on the sidelines, meaning that Rodgers could field a team similar to the one that started the game at the Etihad.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will be without Brazilian midfielder Ramires, who is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season against Swansea.
Frank Lampard is expected to deputise, while Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill will hope to return in place of Ashley Cole and David Luiz in the hosts’ defence.
Captain John Terry is in line to make his 600th appearance for Chelsea, following in the footsteps of fellow club greats Lampard, Ron Harris and Peter Bonetti.
Liverpool drew 1-1 at Chelsea in last season’s corresponding fixture, having won on their three previous visits to Stamford Bridge, but Mourinho says that they are not significantly different to any other opponent.
“Every game is hard,” he said. “The difference is some teams are bigger. Bigger name, bigger impact: Man City-Liverpool, Chelsea-Liverpool, Chelsea-Arsenal.
“But every game is difficult. The last two matches we played (at home), Swansea and Crystal Palace: 1-0, 2-1. You have to give everything to win matches.”