Sunderland manager Gus Poyet has stirred some controversy prior to Wednesday night's Premier League fixture between his outfit and Liverpool, saying the Reds "would be mid-table" without Luis Suarez.
The Black Cats travel to Merseyside in the hope that they can move outside the relegation zone, with Colin Young and Charlie Skillen of the Daily Mail reporting on the Uruguayan's pre-match comments:
I hope he is ill. Without him they would be mid-table. He should be the player everybody should vote player of the season. But I cannot plan to go and lose and take a 3-0 now. We are not going to do that. We will go and no one expects us to do nothing. We can relax, enjoy our football and if they are better than you, well they have beat practically everybody so why not beat Sunderland?
They have players in form we need to take care of but we need to make sure we go with right attitude and mentality and convinced you can have an upset otherwise you have no chance. We are realistic, I know this could be one of the most difficult games, not only because of the way we have been playing and not scoring and conceding too many, but because of the way Liverpool are playing.
Poyet's countryman is currently top of the Premier League scoring charts with 28 goals to his name in 25 matches, as well as 20 assists, per Transfermarkt.
Those numbers mean Suarez has had a hand in 48 of Liverpool's 82 goals this season, a feat made even more incredible by the fact he missed the first five matches of the campaign through suspension.
Squawka compared how prolific Liverpool were with and without Suarez back in October:
One could agree that Liverpool wouldn't be quite as well off this season were it not for Suarez's contributions, which have helped the club maintain some quiet hopes of staging a late bid for the Premier League title.
However, Brendan Rodgers' squad is still packed with other consistent talents such as Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson, who have also pitched in with what's so far been a mightily impressive season.
As things stand, the Reds are third in the Premier League table, four points away from leaders Chelsea and having played one game less than the Blues.
Known Arsenal fan and presenter Piers Morgan says the Gunners are in need of a Suarez-like presence:
Without accounting for what may have happened in his absence, Suarez's goals have directly handed Liverpool 13 points this season, without which they would still be sitting sixth, just above rivals Manchester United.
The South American talent put pen to paper on a new Anfield contract back in December, as confirmed by the club's official website, putting an end to any notion of the striker leaving Liverpool any time in the immediate future.
|Luis Suarez Goal Impact in 2013-14 Premier League|
|Sept. 29||Sunderland (A)||3-1||2|
|Oct. 26||West Brom (H)||4-1||3|
|Nov. 23||Everton (A)||3-3||1|
|Dec. 4||Norwich City (H)||5-1||4|
|Dec. 21||Cardiff CIty (H)||3-1||2|
|Jan. 12||Stoke City (A)||5-3||2|
|March 22||Cardiff City (A)||6-3||3|
Liverpool's persistence in agreeing new terms with Suarez showed just how eager they were to tie down his talents, and even if a club is somewhat reliant on one player, is that such a terrible cross to bear? After all, it was they who scouted the former Ajax sensation and chose to invest in his services in the first place.
In any case, Poyet is right to fear what Suarez has to bring against his travelling Sunderland squad this week, with the Wearsiders hoping to avoid a fifth defeat in six matches, while Liverpool can extend their unbeaten league run to 12 games.