Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says that Luis Suarez is ready for a "seamless" return to the first team following weeks of rigorous training and preparation.
The Uruguay striker will serve the last match of his 10-game suspension, one received for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in April, against Southampton on Saturday, meaning that he will be eligible to return against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday.
While Rodgers cannot guarantee a starting spot for Suarez at Old Trafford, he says that the striker has been "working his socks off" in readiness for his comeback.
|LUIS AND FOUND
|SUAREZ'S LIVERPOOL STATS 2012-13
"The idea is that, hopefully, when he steps back in it will be seamless," Rodgers told reporters. "Of course there will be a transitional period for him but I am really looking forward to having him back.
"He is working his socks off. At the end of sessions, he is having extra work tagged on relative to him and his position. He is flushing himself out to the maximum to be as fit as he possibly can. I am looking forward to it."
Rodgers believes that Suarez has done as much as possible to be fit for action after playing in World Cup qualifiers for Uruguay during his ban, as well as private friendlies at Liverpool's Melwood training ground.
"We have been organizing some games behind closed doors, both in terms of in-house 11-a-side matches and bringing teams in," Rodgers said. "In between that he has had international games as well to keep him ticking along. He has been doing a lot of individual work specific to him on top of all that and replicating his high-intensity speed runs that he would do in a game.
"It is not the same as playing in a match but, say he did 1,000 high-intensity runs in a game, he has been replicating that in training so that he is at a level where we hope he will hit the ground running.
"There are always other things in a game – the crowd and the anxiety that you cannot replicate in training – but what you can at least do is get him to a level of fitness so that his numbers are replicated and that keeps him at a high level."
Although Suarez has been in the stands at Anfield to attend Liverpool matches, Rodgers revealed the reasons for keeping the striker away from the dressing room and the team coach for away trips.
"You have to look at the individual," Rodgers said. "Defenders enjoy being in and around the team all the time but strikers are different. They don't miss playing more than others, but it can be counterproductive having them in and around the team if they're not playing.
"Suarez loves the game. If he doesn't play the game, it kills him. Any kid when they start to play, the integral part of it all is the game and that is what he is like.
"If you put him in the environment of the changing room when he can't play, it can be counterproductive. We have to keep him out of the way."
- Sports & Recreation