LONDON (Reuters) - Luis Suarez thinks his enforced absence from the game last year has changed him and believes Liverpool are ready to claim a Champions League berth for the first time in five years.
Suarez has scored 22 goals in 16 English Premier League games since returning in September from a 10-match ban for biting the arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during a clash at Anfield in April.
The Uruguayan striker’s form has led English media to describe him as one of the best players in the world this season, and has drawn favorable comparison to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who on Monday won FIFA’s Ballon d‘Or for the second time.
“When you are a child, you imagine a lot. Now many people or players speak about that (being one of the best in then world), and it’s unbelievable for me,” Suarez, 26, told Liverpool’s website (www.liverpoolfc.com) on Tuesday.
”And also for Liverpool, because in the last two or three years we have not played very well and not demonstrated our level. Now we are back to that.
“You work hard for the supporters and the people. It’s important because the last few months were a little difficult for me. Now I’ve changed and it’s okay.”
Suarez netted twice against Stoke City on Sunday - the eighth time this season he has scored two or more in a game - to lead Liverpool to a 5-3 win.
They are fourth in the Premier League, six points behind leaders Arsenal and on course to qualify for Europe’s top club competition for the first time since 2009.
“It’s very important because we know that in the last two years we haven’t demonstrated that Liverpool can play in the Champions League,” said Suarez, who said he wanted to leave Liverpool in the close season.
“Now we are playing very well and we have the level to play in the Champions League. We have really good players and if we continue at this level, we can do it.”
Writing by Stephen Wood. Editing by Patrick Johnston