LIVERPOOL // Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, admits the return of Luis Suarez cannot come soon enough after his side surrendered their unbeaten Premier League record with a 1-0 defeat against Southampton.
Dejan Lovren scored the only goal of the game for Southampton in the second half at Anfield on Saturday and, despite long spells of possession, Liverpool were unable to get back on level terms.
Deprived of Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, who is out with a shoulder injury, Liverpool struggled to break down a disciplined Southampton defence.
However, Rodgers is not worried because he believes the imminent return of Suarez, the controversial Uruguay striker, from suspension will do much to address the lack of spark in the final third of the pitch.
Suarez, who attempted to enginner a move to Arsenal in pre-season before being forced to stay, has now served the final game of his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last season and is in contention to feature in their League Cup third-round tie at Manchester United on Wednesday.
“I think that’s a positive; the fact that he is back now, the ban has finished and he’s available from next week,” Rodgers said.
“Sometimes in these games it’s players like Luis who can make the difference. It’s going to be great to have him back.
“I think he’s in a good condition and he’s been playing games, both behind closed doors and ones that have been organised for him. He’s been doing a lot of specific work with the conditioning teams.
“He’s obviously not going to be 100 per cent, when you come into these sorts of cup games that are at a greater intensity.
“But he’s a worker and he’s a fighter and his condition is good. He’s in a good place. He just needs to get games to bring him right up to full speed.”
While Suarez will pep up Liverpool’s attack, Rodgers was particularly disappointed with the manner of the goal his side conceded.
He included four centre-backs in his starting line-up only to see Liverpool lose a goal from a corner when Croatia international Lovren headed home.
“To have so many defensive-minded players, to lose a goal like that was criminal,” Rodgers added.
“It hurts, because we haven’t tasted defeat for such a long time.
“But I’m still very optimistic for the season. Obviously the defeat was hard to swallow, but our optimism is very much intact and we feel we can have a really good season.
“We never really got going from the off. It was a bit lethargic and technically we were short, so it was a very disappointing result and performance for us.
“We were flat and slow in our game. Which hasn’t been like us.
“We’ll just put it down as one of those days and now we need to go on another good run.”
Mauricio Pochettino, the Southampton manager, felt the result was richly deserved for his side after they restricted Liverpool to just a handful of chances.
Steven Gerrard twice went close from free-kicks while Victor Moses brought a smart save out of Southampton goalkeeper Artur Boruc.
But that was the best the home side could muster and the Saints might have increased the margin of victory further had Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet not produced a brilliant double save to deny Luke Shaw.
“We are very pleased and satisfied with the performance of the team,” Pochettino said.
“We played very well in a very tough stadium so we are very pleased with how we played.
“I think especially in the second half we were much superior to them and we developed how we wanted to play.
“The secret also was not conceding any goals. It’s also really good that one of our defenders got on the scoresheet.
“But we are just thinking ahead to the next game and nothing else. I’ve been in football too many years to be carried away.”