• World Cup

Suarez and Sturridge fight to be king

ESPN staff
June 19, 2014
Can Suarez help Uruguay rebound?

Brendan Rodgers is relishing the World Cup battle between Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge which will see the winner take his place on the throne at Anfield.

The Liverpool team-mates will line up as enemies when England take on Uruguay in Group D on Thursday night, with both sides desperate for a win after opening-game defeats.

Rodgers refused to say who he thinks will be victorious in the fight for World Cup survival, but piled on the pressure by insisting there are no "second chances" at the World Cup.

Suarez not "Premier League fit"

  • Luis Suarez has recovered from a knee operation to lead the line for Uruguay against England in Sao Paulo tonight, but Uruguay head coach Oscar Tabarez has warned the striker might not hit top form.

    Suarez underwent surgery last month to repair damage to his meniscus after the problem was picked up in training.

    Suarez is expected to start for Uruguay in the crucial Group D clash, but Tabarez has pleaded with fans not to expect too much from their talisman.

    "If [Suarez] plays we must consider the possibility that he's not as well as he was during the Premier League," Tabarez said. "But even when not 100% he is someone who can give a lot to his team.

    "We thought if everything went well there was no reason for him not to play in the World Cup. He has recovered well.

    "Luis has always wanted to face all challenges in his career, not only playing for national team but in other situations. Any time we have need him in any sort of match he has been willing.

"There's a healthy rivalry between them, of course," Rodgers told The Sun. "They are both born strikers, and all strikers want to be the number nine. They want to finish as top scorer - they want to be the kings!

"It will be fascinating to see the two goalscorers go against each other, because they will both want to come out on top.

"They're two different players with two different sets of qualities, although obviously Suarez has got a lot more experience, and can play in a number of different positions.

"The problem you have at that level is you don't get a second chance."

Sturridge played as England's No.9 and scored their goal in the defeat by Italy last Saturday - thanks to a pinpoint cross from Wayne Rooney - but the roles of Roy Hodgson's forwards have been the subject of intense debate with most of them laying claim to the central position.

Rodgers, understandably, claims Sturridge should stay as the focal point for the team."He can play out of position in certain situations but will benefit from playing in the right role," the manager said. "[Sturridge] is best through the middle, although Wayne Rooney is also best through the middle, maybe dropping in.

"It's about looking at where his strengths are as a player - and I think he has earned the right to be played in his best position."

Back Sturridge for a repeat performance

Daniel Sturridge impressed against Italy © Getty Images

Steven Gerrard, who captain's England - and therefore Sturridge - as well as Suarez, at Liverpool also believes that the Uruguayan will be desperate to put one over his club-mates with victory in Sao Paulo.

"I will say hello and shake his hand but at that moment I am not looking for friends," Gerrard explained. "He knows once that whistle blows there is no friendship between us for 90 minutes.

"Of course we have had banter up to this point. It has to remain private, but he is a very confident guy. He plays in our country and this match means an awful lot to him and he is desperate to win it."

Suarez, who last month underwent knee surgery, has been the centre of attention for Uruguay in the build-up to tonight's match.

But Hodgson is quietly confident that England can keep him quiet with a compact defensive performance.

"Suarez will come back and that will be a big boost for them, not just as a player but as a confidence booster for the whole team," Hodgson said.

"The fact is good players are good players. It doesn't really matter whether you've played against someone or you know his game a bit better than someone you've never seen before.

"If people have that incredible ability they will cause problems - that is why they are great players. That is why, when you talk about Argentina, you talk about Lionel Messi.

"We'd like to think that, as a team, we can keep Suarez quiet. He plays all along the frontline, makes runs behind defenders, comes short and gets the ball.

"All we can do is make sure our defence is compact and we make it difficult for him."

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