Brendan Rodgers has said there should be no fresh problems between Liverpool and Luis Suárez following the managing director Ian Ayre's admission that the striker's behaviour had damaged the club.
Ayre described Suárez's rehabilitation into the squad after a 10-match ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic as akin to teaching "a naughty kid the error of his ways" at a sports industry event on Thursday. The Anfield official also accepted the controversies surrounding the 26-year-old had impacted on the Liverpool brand. "I'm not saying Luis has made a huge, damaging impact," Ayre said, "but every time you have a negative issue like that particular one [Ivanovic], then of course it's damaging. The important thing is to put it right and restore the integrity of the football club."
Suárez had more important matters to concern himself with on Thursday when his wife gave birth to their second child. "As you can imagine, he is on top of the world," Rodgers said. But after a summer when the Uruguay international pushed in vain for a transfer to Arsenal, and accused his manager of breaking promises over his future, Ayre's comments could test the truce that exists between Suárez's camp and Liverpool following the close of the transfer window. Not so, according to the Liverpool manager, who welcomed Suárez back from his latest suspension in the Capital One Cup defeat at Manchester United on Wednesday night.
Rodgers insisted: "I thought the coverage was unfair on Ian to be honest. He was talking about the coverage of the club as a whole rather than just Luis Suárez. That is all behind us and we have to focus on the future. I don't think anyone wants to keep regurgitating that stuff and as far as we are concerned it belongs in the past."
Suárez is in line to make his first Premier League start since April at managerless Sunderland on Sunday having played the full 90 minutes at Old Trafford. "You could see the threat he posed the other night and he's only going to get better," Rodgers said. "The way he equipped himself was exceptional. He linked up with Daniel [Sturridge] very well and he will only improve from here."
Sturridge excelled at the head of Liverpool's attack in Suárez's absence, scoring six goals in the first five matches of the season, but his contribution dropped alongside the Uruguayan at Old Trafford as Rodgers's team suffered a second successive defeat. The manager, however, is confident the pair will flourish together.
"I think Luis's return will only improve Daniel and make him a better player," he added. "Good players want to play with other good players and I think you will see they can be a real threat. It's not something Daniel will be worried about. The players' focus is on the team doing well and it is my job to manage the dynamics and structure of the team. I've got no worries about it."
Sunday represents a return to Sunderland for the Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, signed for £9m in the summer, and Rodgers believes the Belgium international has shown why he was prepared to end José Reina's reign as Anfield's No1.
"Simon has settled very well and made some important saves," the Liverpool manager said. "We needed a keeper as part of the recruitment process and we needed someone to come in as smoothly as possible. We knew mentally he was a strong boy and focused on his work.
"Hundreds of words have been printed about why Pepe left and what was supposed to have been said, but the important thing was to get someone in who could do the job for Liverpool. Pepe is still a contracted player at this club, even though he has written a goodbye letter, but he chose to go [on loan to Napoli] and I will always do what is in the best interests of the club. It is important that every player is challenged and even more so for a keeper. Simon, like Pepe, can be the No1 here for a long period."
Daniel Agger, who missed the United defeat with a rib injury, has returned to training but remains a doubt for the trip to the Stadium of Light.