Friday 15 November 2019

Liverpool ache for return of Daniel Sturridge

Liverpool 0 Bolton 0

Daniel Sturridge going through his paces at Liverpool's Metwood training complex
Daniel Sturridge going through his paces at Liverpool's Metwood training complex
Emile Heskey of Bolton Wanderers passes the ball under pressure from Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson of Liverpool during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers at Anfield
Liverpool's Spanish defender Jose Enrique passes the ball during the FA Cup fourth round football match between Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers at Anfield
Bolton Wanderers' English striker Emile Heskey climbs to win a header from Liverpool's German midfielder Emre Can (2nd L) during the FA Cup fourth round match between Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers at Anfield
Bolton Wanderers' English midfielder Darren Pratley (L) vies with Liverpool's Spanish defender Javier Manquillo (R) during the FA Cup fourth round football match between Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers at Anfield
Jose Enrique of Liverpool shields the ball from Liam Feeney of Bolton Wanderers during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and Bolton Wanderers at Anfield

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool have rediscovered their bark but the search for a bite continues. They will need a replay to see off Bolton Wanderers, the latest visiting club to leave Anfield having taken advantage of the absence of a potent home striker.

Brendan Rodgers's system changes have improved Liverpool, but only the return of Daniel Sturridge - possibly tomorrow - can turn a promising sequence of displays into more tangible reward.

"He is very excited about how the team is playing. It is suited to his game. He would have fancied himself in this game to get some goals," Rodgers said, ahead of their League Cup semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge. "But we wouldn't risk him if he is not ready to face Chelsea. No."

After Saturday's 0-0 draw, Liverpool vice-captain Jordan Henderson insisted they were relieved to still be in the other cup competition after seeing the Premier League's top three of Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton plus sixth-placed Tottenham all lose at home to lower-placed opposition.

"It was obviously a big shock for City, Chelsea and Tottenham to go out but the main thing is we are still in the competition," said the England midfielder, leading the side in the absence of Steven Gerrard who was rested ahead of tomorrow's game.

"To be honest we were pretty focused on what we were doing but the results came on the tannoy and one or two players might have heard but at the same time we just focused on what we needed to do.

"We've seen it for many years, lower league teams have beaten Premier League teams and Saturday was no different but we have shown good character to not lose the game and that is the main thing.

"We are a bit disappointed we didn't win but we are still in the draw and are looking forward to the game on Tuesday."

Liverpool now find themselves in the midst of fixture congestion, which is to be welcomed, given it ensures trophy ambitions remain intact.

Their trip to west London is their most important date of the season, although out-of-favour Mario Balotelli looks set to continue his time on the sidelines despite the busy run of fixtures.

The Italian has been out of favour with Rodgers because of the his lack of work rate, with the manager preferring a more mobile frontline in recent weeks. Balotelli was available after illness on Saturday, but wasn't even selected in the match-day squad.

Treatment

"I'm judging it every day in training. Mario is exactly the same as every other player, there's no special treatment for anyone," Rodgers said. "We've made a change structurally in the team for the pressing and creativity to come back.

"He is a player that will work very hard now to get back in, but it doesn't matter who the player is or what he was bought for; this is a collective that is about the team, and if you want to contribute then you have to be at it every single day in training in order to be in the squad on matchday.

"He's naturally been a box player," Rodgers said about Balotelli, whom he spoke with for an hour on Friday.

"There is much more asked at this team and in the intensity of the team."

Balotelli hasn't scored a Premier League goal for Liverpool since joining in the summer transfer window. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

The Left Wing: Champions Cup preview, the World Cup hangover and Joe Schmidt's next team

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport