Sturridge set to give Liverpool a timely boost
Striker Daniel Sturridge is set to return from a lengthy absence to add firepower to Liverpool's bid for Champions League football.
A sprained ankle has sidelined the 24-year-old since he scored a last-minute equaliser in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on November 23.
And the timing of his return to fitness could not be better as Liverpool bid to get back on track after a couple of stuttering performances against Hull and then League One side Oldham in the FA Cup.
Manager Brendan Rodgers believes the England international is ready to make an immediate impact against Stoke tomorrow.
"Daniel has made a terrific impact since he came in here and we are working hard with him and his talent to allow that to flourish," said Rodgers.
"Over the last four to five weeks it has obviously been difficult with injuries but having these types of players back and just seeing him on the training field has been really good
"To have someone of that stature and quality back in your group gives you great firepower.
"Thankfully Daniel is one who, having missed almost all of pre-season (with another ankle injury suffered on international duty), came back in, trained for 10 days and started off the season outstandingly
"The make-up of his body is really good and he has looked after himself and looks at a good level fitness-wise.
"We don't need to rush him but we need to make sure he is ready to make an impact in the second half of the season."
In Sturridge's absence, Luis Suarez took his own personal form up a notch by setting a Premier League record of 10 goals in December -- the first time a player has hit double figures in one calendar month.
It was easily enough to earn him the Player of the Month award and Rodgers said it was more than deserved after a difficult summer for the Uruguay international when he tried to fashion a move away.
Having returned from suspension, Suarez responded by scoring 20 goals in just 15 Premier League appearances which resulted in a new and vastly improved contract being signed a few weeks ago.
Rodgers believes that Suarez has altered his perception on some things -- most significantly where the fortunes of the club lie.
"Luis is 27 later on this month and probably his own mindset -- thinking he wants to be here, knowing he maybe had to change that little bit -- is part of his growing process as a player and a person," the manager added.
"We adore his talent and his personality and his desire to be successful and for us as a football club to have a world-class striker on your books is obviously very important."
Rodgers believes that Liverpool are still on course to meet their expectations for this season.
"We are reasonably satisfied with where we are. Our performance level has been, in the main, excellent and our confidence and belief is really high."
The return to fitness of Sturridge and defender Mamadou Sakho, who has recovered from a hamstring strain, has been tempered by the news Liverpool will be without Daniel Agger for up to four weeks after he sustained a calf injury against Oldham.
STOKE V LIVERPOOL,
LIVE, TOMORROW, SKY SPORTS 1, 4.10