PICTURES of Luis Suarez being carted around in a wheelchair have not fooled Jordan Henderson, who fully expects to be lining up against his Liverpool team-mate when England take on Uruguay at the World Cup.
After sweeping up at the end-of-season awards for his wonderful displays with the Reds, the 27-year-old was widely predicted to light up this summer’s tournament in Brazil.
However, Suarez had to undergo keyhole surgery last Thursday to repair damage to the meniscus in his left knee, putting his World Cup participation in doubt.
Uruguay’s team doctor is cautiously optimistic about the striker making it and so does Henderson, who sent a text to his Liverpool colleague after hearing about his injury.
“Everybody is obviously disappointed for Luis, the people that know him – maybe not us because he is a big player for Uruguay,” the midfielder said with a smile.
“I gave him a text to see if he is doing all right and wished him good luck with whatever he has got to have done.
“But, knowing the type of person he is, he is a fighter and I am sure come maybe the first game or the second game in the World Cup he will be ready and raring to go.”
Uruguay take on Costa Rica in their Group D opener on 15 June before facing England in Sao Paulo four days later.
Suarez’s absence would clearly be a boost to Roy Hodgson’s men, although there is no way that would lull Henderson into a false sense of security.
“It is not just Luis,” the midfielder said. “Obviously he is outstanding but they’ve got other good players, they’re a very good team so we’ll look at different ways and options of how to deal with that and counteract that.
“We’ll just focus on what we’ve got to do but first and foremost is the game against Italy. That’s all we’ve got to focus on.” Henderson is being tipped by many to start England’s opening match in Manaus, playing in central midfield alongside Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard.
The pair have built up an impressive relationship this season and hope to extend that to the national team in the upcoming pre-tournament friendlies against Peru, Ecuador and Honduras.
“Me and Stevie have played together throughout the season and it has worked really well at times,” Henderson said. “But when you come with England it is different. We play different tactics, different formations so it is a little bit different, but it is up to the manager to decide what side he wants to put out and hopefully I will be part of it.”
Henderson and Gerrard were on the pitch in the Three Lions’ last match at a major tournament, which as fate would have it was also against Italy.
In that match, the Euro 2012 quarter-final in Kiev, England went out on penalties after the match finished goalless and Henderson knows they need to show more of a cutting edge.
“Obviously it is not a nice way to go out of a competition, on penalties,” he added.
“It was very hard to take after the game but at the same time I felt as though we played well in the game, defended really well as a team.
“We were solid, so hopefully we can do the same as that and add to that, but with a bit more attacking options, and get a few goals on top of that to win the game.”