Date: 13 May 2017 04:33
The striker is in line to start against West Ham, who are interested in his services, but he must remind better suitors of his superior talents
“He lights up this team. He provides the light for this team.”
It was against West Ham over two years ago when Daniel Sturridge, returning from a five-month injury lay-off, reminded the audience of his elite status to prompt the above adulation from then-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
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The England international had only been on the pitch 12 minutes before an exquisite first touch allowed him to ruthlessly finish off service from Philippe Coutinho.
Much has changed at Liverpool since that 2-0 victory on 31 January 2015, not least the man in the dugout.
Raheem Sterling had opened the scoring in the fixture, but is now at Manchester City, while it was Lazar Markovic, currently on loan at Hull, who made way for Sturridge.
Despite all the alterations at the club, eyes still shift towards the striker when more pivotal play is needed in the final third.
But as was the case back then, he is not available enough to “decide a game in a second” as Jurgen Klopp put it.
Against the same opponents on Sunday, though, Sturridge is in line to make his first Premier League start since the 2-2 draw at Sunderland on January 2.
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He is “ready” to be such an option - a word rarely used this season, making its effect even more significant as Liverpool attempt to secure Champions League football.
Should Klopp select the 27-year-old in his XI at London Stadium, it will be only the 10th time he’d have done so in all competitions this campaign.
“For me, there was not a second of doubt about Daniel Sturridge,” said the Reds boss.
“For all of us, it was unlucky that at important moments he was not available. That was not his fault. It was not my fault. It was only the situation.
“I only think about now at this moment and I trust him 100 per cent. He’s an instinctive footballer and a fantastic striker.
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“It’s good news that he’s now available. Three or four weeks ago, I was not sure that it would happen. Now he’s there, and that’s all good.”
Sturridge has scored just six goals in 25 appearances this season - his second lowest return at Liverpool since the five he managed when featuring 18 times in 2014-15.
He has been a mere footnote thus far this term, but can be fundamental to consolidating a top-four finish for the club.
At West Ham, whether he starts - which seems exceedingly likely - or comes off the bench, the forward needs to be decisive, to be the difference.
Sturridge’s four-and-a-half year spell at Liverpool is expected to come to an end this summer as Klopp targets attacking reinforcements and the player seeks more minutes in the prime of his career.
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The German’s physical demands have proven too taxing for the frontman, who has found it hard to complete a series of sessions throughout the campaign. However, he can thrive in a less intense set-up, where his instinctiveness and movement in the final third is paramount, not his work out of possession.
As Goal revealed, Paris Saint-Germain were interested in a loan move for Sturridge in January, while Slaven Bilic has publicly stated he is one of the attackers West Ham are assessing as an option in the summer.
"When he is on fire, he is a great player,” the Croatian said.
“We are going to see. We have our list of strikers. If you go back two or three seasons he was unbelievable,"
"He plays very rarely but I watched Stoke against Liverpool. He came on and, with a couple of passes, he broke their defence.
"So of course he is showing that when he plays, but he plays very rarely."
This weekend, Sturridge has the opportunity to not only fire his team closer to rejoining Europe’s elite, but to elevate his personal situation too.
Despite his injury concerns, a player of his calibre - with 59 goals in 83 starts for the Merseysiders - shouldn’t merely be one of the names on West Ham’s transfer list this summer.
Pedigreed centre-forwards are at a premium in the market because they are hard to come by. Sturridge would be easily available for the right fee, but he needs to remind suitors of the superior talent he is.
Rodgers referred to him as a “genuine, top European player” and with the Reds targeting a Champions League return, he should also have designs on featuring in the competition.
Sturridge needs to light up Liverpool again to have a shot at providing the light for a top team next season.
14 May 2017 12:58
14 May 2017 03:08
13 May 2017 06:23