Daniel Sturridge return will transform whole team says Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool boss to make late call on striker ahead of West Ham game
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will wait until tomorrow before deciding whether to give Daniel Sturridge his comeback in Saturday's Barclays Premier League game at home to West Ham.
Sturridge has been out since suffering a thigh injury on international duty last September.
The England striker has sustained a calf injury and another thigh problem during his rehabilitation, but he is now closing in on a return to fitness.
The Reds striker has been training with his team-mates this week, but Rodgers will not decide whether the 25-year-old will take any part in the game until 24 hours before kick-off.
"He has looked outstanding in training, but we will give him another day (before deciding whether to play him)," the Reds boss told a press conference.
"I will have a chat with him (on Friday) and overview the week, how everything has gone, but in my brief conversation with him (on Thursday) I can tell he is happy and feeling very strong in his own body.
"At this moment, he looks in top-class condition."
Sturridge's partnership with Luis Suarez almost propelled Liverpool to the title last year.
But with Suarez now in Barcelona, and Sturridge spending most of the season on the sidelines, Liverpool have struggled.
The Reds lie eighth in the Barclays Premier League, five points behind fourth-placed Manchester United.
Rodgers hopes the return of the England striker will have a big impact in the closing stages of the season.
When asked whether Sturridge's absence was one of the main reasons why the Reds were not in the top four, Rodgers replied: "No question. I think it's had a huge impact on our season.
"You can trace that back to the beginning of the season when we played one of our early games against Tottenham. You saw then he was the reference point for the team.
"From that point on, the team have struggled but thankfully we have been getting better and better all the time and when you put Daniel in he shines a different light on to that."
Sturridge scored 24 goals for Liverpool last year, but Rodgers has warned not to expect too much too soon from the former Chelsea and Manchester City forward.
"We just have to be careful with him," Rodgers added.
"He has been out for a long time.
"We can't put him under so much pressure that he is going to be the saving grace as soon as he steps foot on the pitch."
Raheem Sterling has been tasked with filling the void left by Sturridge.
The former QPR forward has been in discussions with Liverpool over a new contract recently and Rodgers said he hoped a deal would be signed soon.
"I'm sure it will be sorted and organised very soon," Rodgers said.
"I think it's all in hand with the club and his representatives.
"Raheem is very happy here. He is a young player that's playing very well at one of the best clubs in the world.
"He sees his long-term future here. I spoke with him today. He is very happy with his progress and how he is developing.
"He is a real sponge for learning."