Daniel Sturridge is set to make his Liverpool return on Saturday after five months out and for manager...
Daniel Sturridge is set to make his Liverpool return on Saturday after five months out and for manager Brendan Rodgers there is hope for what he can bring and lingering disappointment over what might have been.
When Sturridge was ruled out with a thigh injury on international duty in early September, Liverpool’s goals dried up.
Left without the services of their top two scorers from the previous season, with Luis Suarez sold to Barcelona last July, Liverpool’s season effectively imploded.
A recent resurgence has been built around a change of system with Raheem Sterling drafted in to a makeshift striker’s role, but he has effectively been keeping the position warm until Sturridge could make his comeback.
That looks likely to happen against West Ham United at Anfield on Saturday.
While Rodgers remains cautious about rushing the England forward back into action, he is certain their season would have panned out differently had Sturridge stayed fit.
“We have to be careful with him as he’s been out a long time but to have him back for the second part of the season will make us a better team,” Rodgers told reporters on Thursday.
“Daniel not playing has had a huge impact on our season. If you trace it back to the beginning of the season against Tottenham you could see what a reference he was for the team in that game.
“From that point he hasn’t played and we struggled for a few months. Thankfully, over the past few months we have nailed down a way of working and returned to our football ideas.
“We’re becoming better and better and Daniel coming back will shine a different light on to the team. He looks in top class condition.”
Liverpool are eighth in the Premier League, five points adrift of fourth. They have taken 13 points out of the last 15, however, and again look capable of challenging for a Champions League qualification spot.
Among the positives to have emerged from their recent league run and their narrow League Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea on Tuesday has been the form of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who was dropped for several weeks at the tail-end of 2014.
When he was left out in favour of back-up Brad Jones he looked a barrel of nerves.
Since his return, however, he has been sharper and more confident.
“Simon’s shown the benefits of having a bit of time out of the side,” Rodgers said.
“He looks like a different goalkeeper…
“Since he’s come back into the team he’s shown why we brought him here.”