Oscar Tabarez admits the Luis Suarez that will face England on Thursday will not be the same one that lit up the Premier League last season.
Suarez, scorer of 27 Premier League goals last year, will be key to Uruguay’s chances of beating England in their crunch Group D match in Sao Paulo on Thursday.
Suarez’s fitness has been a hot topic in Uruguay and England ever since he suffered a knee injury at a training camp just over four weeks before the start of the World Cup.
The Liverpool player has declared himself fit and he took part in a full training session at the Arena de Sao Paulo, but coach Tabarez refused to reveal whether the forward would start the match.
If Suarez does play, Tabarez concedes he will struggle to replicate the kind of form he showed in England after over a month out.
“We will announce who will play tomorrow and not before,” Tabarez told a press conference in Sao Paulo.
“He has recovered well but if he plays we must consider the possibility that he’s not as well as he was during the Premier League,”
“He has trained with his team-mates but training is not the same as a match.
“But even when not 100 per cent he is someone who can give a lot to his team. That’s what we’re considering right now.”
Suarez was named double player of the year last season thanks to his goals, which almost brought Liverpool their first league title in 24 years.
But the 27-year-old is still not universally liked by fans of English football.
Suarez caused outrage when he bit Branislav Ivanovic’s arm during Liverpool’s game with Chelsea two seasons ago.
The former Ajax man was also handed an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
And four years ago, Suarez caused outrage when he blocked a goal-bound shot on the line in Uruguay’s World Cup game against Ghana in South Africa.
Suarez was sent off but Asamoah Gyan missed the spot-kick and Uruguay progressed to the semi-finals following a penalty shootout.
But Tabarez insists dirty tricks are no longer a part of Uruguay’s game.
“We have many fair play awards and this proves we have good conduct in our team,” said Tabarez, who is now in his second spell as Uruguay manager.
“Remember football is played by human beings. We need humility to accept we make mistakes.
“We know who we are and the image we want to project. It’s not possible to speak of things that happened four years ago. We need to concentrate in the future.”
Uruguay will be without captain Diego Lugano, who has a knee injury.
Liverpool flop Sebastian Coates could replace Lugano, who was recently released by West Brom.
Tabarez refused to reveal who would skipper Uruguay in Lugano’s absence, but it is worth noting that Suarez has captained La Celeste in the past.
“The captain must be a leader and must be accepted by his team-mates,” was all Tabarez would say on the matter on Wednesday.
“Fortunately I have several candidates to replace Diego but that’s something I will tell you on Thursday.”
Just after Uruguay lost to Costa Rica on Saturday, England fell to Italy 2-1 in Manaus.
Tabarez was impressed with England’s attacking display but he thinks that does not necessarily mean they will put on a repeat performance in Sao Paulo.
“They played well but it doesn’t mean they will play the same against Uruguay,” he said.
“They have four very good, wonderful attacking players who are very fast, and are more than able to score.
“They were very direct and pragmatic. They are able to organise wonderful plays very fast.”
Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani has warned England that Uruguay are up for the match.
“If you want to win against us you have to fight,” Cavani said.
“We have the tools to react. We are ready to face this situation. We have overcome similar situations before.”