Daniel Sturridge’s imminent return to the Liverpool starting eleven could not come at a better time for the club.
The England striker has been out injured with a thigh problem since August and he could be in line to feature against West Ham at Anfield on Saturday.
The 25-year-old has suffered a number of setbacks that have prevented him from recovering in quicker time this season. Now he is fit, though, Rodgers will be desperate to get him back into a side that has struggled to score goals without him. The strike- force of Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini have been below par so far this term, with Rodgers often opting to play Raheem Sterling in a centre-forward position instead.
Sturridge will need time to get back to his goalscoring best, but his presence in the team is a timely addition for the club. His return sees the potential for Sterling and Sturridge to revive a partnership that was very impressive last season. They share an excellent understanding with each other and can be a nightmare for opposition defences due to their pace and movement, stretching the opposition regularly.
Liverpool have looked very bare up front in Sturridge’s absence, but Rodgers has done well to grind out results in the league. Liverpool haven’t lost in six Premier League games and they have kept a clean sheet in their last two. There seems to be an assured solidarity about Liverpool at the moment, something that wasn’t particularly existent last year, despite their push for the title. If the club can keep a stern defensive approach while still accommodating the attacking talent of Sturridge, Liverpool will feel there’s an opportunity for the club to really challenge for the top four.
Rodgers stated that a top four finish would be the aim at the start of the season and, although that particular target looked bleak a couple of months ago, Sturridge’s return will inject some regained hope into the side.
As Liverpool face a congested run of fixtures in the League Cup, FA Cup, the Premier League and Europa League, they are going to need as many squad options as possible. Sturridge won’t be able to play every game but he is a key player that will add extra attacking quality to a squad that really needs his goals at the moment. His partnership with Raheem Sterling is dangerous, and Sturridge impressed in a lone role up front last season when Luis Suarez didn’t play. Although, despite Sturridge’s ability to play up front on his own, Rodgers will be looking to see whether a potential new partnership between his strikers could result in a similar threat as last season.
Sturridge and Balotelli played together in arguably Liverpool’s most impressive performance this season, beating Tottenham 3-0 at White Hart Lane. But it is not even slightly guaranteed, Sturridge’s presence up front could get the best out of a faltering Balotelli by creating more space for the Italian.
One thing is for sure, Sturridge’s return will mean that Liverpool will pose a greater threat in attack, something that Brendan Rodgers has desperately needed so far this season.