More to come from 'incredible' Liverpool as Suarez returns

By: AFP      Published: 11:04 AM, 18 Oct, 2021
Liverpool
Luis Suarez

Sadio Mane fired an ominous warning to Liverpool's rivals as he insisted the Reds can still improve after warming up for Tuesday's Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid by thrashing Watford.

Jurgen Klopp's side powered to a 5-0 victory at Vicarage Road on Saturday to keep their Premier League title challenge on track.

With Liverpool just one point behind leaders Chelsea, they can turn their attention to the most demanding of their Champions League Group B fixtures.

Having moved to the top of the group with victories over AC Milan and Porto, the six-time European Cup winners head to Madrid to face the Spanish champions.

Emerging from the Wanda Metropolitano stadium with three points will be a tricky task, but Liverpool can call on an attacking trio that once again looks the envy of the rest of Europe.

Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were unstoppable when Liverpool marched to their first Premier League title in 30 years during the 2019-20 season.

But in last term's tame surrender of the crown, both Mane and Firmino were well below their best.

Getting all three firing in unison was an essential task for Liverpool boss Klopp this year and the demolition of Watford suggests he has achieved that goal.

It was a memorable day for Liverpool's holy trinity.

Senegal forward Mane became only the third African to score 100 Premier League goals with a clinical finish from Salah's pass.

"Honestly, when I came to the Premier League my dream was to score as many as I can and especially to win trophies," Mane said of his milestone moment.

Salah produced another sublime strike, dancing through Watford defence to surpass even the brilliant goal he scored against Manchester City before the international break.

The Egypt star has scored in eight successive matches in all competitions for the first time in his career.

With 10 goals in 10 appearances in total this season, it is surely only a matter of time before Liverpool bow to the 29-year-old's wage demands in their on-going contract talks.

"I think it's a better goal than City. But it's no surprise for us because we know his quality, one of the best players in the world. He showed it," Mane said of Salah.

Then there was Brazilian forward Firmino, making the most of his first league start in five games with his first Liverpool hat-trick since 2018.

Firmino has lost his place to Diogo Jota several times since last season and his treble was a well-timed reminder to Klopp that he can still be a key figure.

"Bobby as well, he showed it, one of the best for sure in the world," Mane said.

"It was not an easy time for him with injuries but he is back and I'm happy for him.

"Hopefully he will be here for us and score more goals for us until the end of the season."

It was Liverpool's biggest win since beating Crystal Palace 7-0 last December, which was the last time Firmino, Salah and Mane all scored in a top-flight game.

In the midst of a crucial stretch of fixtures, including two Champions League ties against Atletico and a visit to bitter rivals Manchester United, Liverpool's fearsome display came at an opportune moment.

Liverpool have scored three goals or more in their six away games in all competitions this season.

However, Mane believes there will be even better to come as long as they don't lose focus.

"We know our qualities and how hard we could make it. It's what we did for the weekend and over the weeks," Mane said.

"We worked very hard and we showed it today. It was just incredible and hopefully we're going to keep like this."

Suarez and Liverpool reunite again

Luis Suarez reunites with Liverpool in the Champions League on Tuesday and for another 90 minutes, a fans' favourite and cherished former club will have to be enemies again.

The last time Suarez met Liverpool in Spain was also the first time since he left the club five years earlier in 2014 and it was the Uruguayan who set the tone.

He slid in studs up, not for a tackle but a finish, and without a moment's hesitation celebrated, circling around the back of Liverpool's goal, his arms outstretched, grinning.

He had scored 82 goals in 133 games for them, won a cup with them, been defended through racism and biting scandals by them, and earned their adoration as one of their greatest ever players.

But there at Camp Nou, in the crackle of a Champions League last-16 tie, there was no sign of restraint, let alone remorse. Suarez had given Barcelona the lead against Liverpool and nobody could say he was not relishing every second of it.

In the build-up to the second leg at Anfield, he switched back. 

He spoke of his close relationship with Liverpool's staff and how his children learned the excitement of football in the city. 

He posed for a photo, giving a thumbs up next to the club's crest on a wall.

None of that was insincere. Liverpool was the club that raised Suarez from a precocious talent at Ajax to one of the most feared strikers in the world. 

With them he had shared joy and despair. When Liverpool missed out on winning the Premier League in 2014, a pivotal defeat by Crystal Palace left him crying under his shirt.

But now Suarez was celebrating their disappointment and the Liverpool fans remembered. In the second leg they booed and heckled as Suarez got to work again.

He flicked the ball away as Liverpool tried to take a throw. He confronted Fabinho, hoping to stir a reaction. Fabinho was booked for the challenge that followed, Suarez rolling on the floor, hands clasped around his leg.

"I just can't get enough," the Liverpool fans once sang. Now it was: "Cheat, cheat, cheat".

Liverpool triumphed, an historic comeback turning a 3-0 first-leg defeat into a 4-3 win on aggregate, Suarez's anguish only adding to the satisfaction.

They adored Suarez playing for them but despised him playing against them and at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, they will expect nothing different.

- 'Crush anyone' -

In an interview with the BBC last year, Steven Gerrard talked about Suarez agitating even his teammates in training. 

"He went against them, he struggled with them, he raised his elbows and I thought, 'This is not what you normally see in training'," Gerrard said. 

"Normally, you see a lot of respect, but Luis would crush anyone."

It was that same drive and defiance that made Suarez join Atletico Madrid after being cast off by Barcelona. 

Suarez told Diario Sport this month he was "treated like he was 15" by Ronald Koeman and the club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, "leaked that he was damaging the dressing room".

Suarez had not enjoyed his best season for Barca and there was an argument to say his style was depriving the team of a more mobile, free-flowing attack. But he wanted to show he still belonged to the elite and wanted to show Barcelona close up.

He scored 21 goals in 38 games for Atletico last term and the one goal that won them the title. 

Diego Simeone called it "the Suarez Zone", a tendency to deliver when it matters most, and before the international break, there he was again, scoring in 2-0 win over Barcelona.

He celebrated by making a phone gesture in the direction of Koeman, seemingly in reference to their 40-second goodbye call.

It was also his fourth goal in as many games for Atletico, easing concerns that a 34-year-old with an aching knee might not burn so brightly in his second season.

But Suarez is at his best when defiant, with an opponent to prove wrong and a moment to seize. Liverpool remember it well.