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Apr 30, 2013

Lucas: Liverpool players behind Suarez

Lucas Leiva insists that his close friend Luis Suarez will come back from his ten-match ban as a better person - and hopes the striker will stay at Liverpool beyond the summer.

• Walsh: One-man team myth

Suarez received his suspension after biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic during a 2-2 Premier League draw on April 21.

The striker, 26, is set to return to the club's Melwood training base this week after being granted a few days off, and will attend Sunday's Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield.

But the Uruguay international's long-term future in English football is uncertain, despite the fact that he has a contract to run until 2016. Juventus, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid have all been linked with a move for the forward. His name was also booed during the PFA awards gala on Sunday evening.

However, midfielder Lucas says that Liverpool's players are giving Suarez their full support.

The Brazilian told the Liverpool Echo: "I have been with Luis almost every day since what happened.

"He's OK now. He knows that he will have to miss a few games but he will come back strongly from this. He will try to come back as a better footballer if possible and a better person too.

"We hope that he can relax now and really work on things he thinks he can improve on. As players, we are all right behind him. He's an important player for this club and he's also a person who we have to help.

"I haven't discussed his future with him. We don't talk about it as that's his private business. I can't tell what he has in mind but he has a contract and I think every player here is looking forward to next season."

In the immediate aftermath of the biting controversy, Suarez apologised, was fined by his club and accepted a Football Association charge of violent conduct.

But both the player and the club argued that a standard three-match ban would be sufficient punishment for the bite, a position that an independent panel disagreed with - stating in its judgement that Suarez had failed to grasp "the gravity and seriousness" of his offence.

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina responded by calling the length of the ban "absurd", while manager Brendan Rodgers claimed that Suarez had been victimised, stating that the punishment was "against the man rather than the incident".

However, Suarez decided not to appeal against the length of the ban, issuing a second apology on Friday.

The majority of Liverpool's fans have continued to support Suarez, chanting his name as he sat out last Saturday's 6-0 Premier League win at Newcastle.

Lucas added: "The fact the fans sung his name so much at St James' Park just showed the love they have for Luis. For sure, he loves this club as well. We all hope Luis will still be a Liverpool player next season."

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