Monday 20 January 2020

Sturridge ready to stake his claim for No 1

Daniel Sturridge is set to make his return for Liverpool Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Daniel Sturridge is set to make his return for Liverpool Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Chris Bascombe

Daniel Sturridge will get his chance to prove he can still be Liverpool's No 1 striker when he returns at Burnley today.

A healthy fight is on to become Anfield's main - or if you will excuse the pun, Mane - man leading the line for Jurgen Klopp this season, although an untimely shoulder injury is likely to keep new signing Sadio Mane out today.

Amid the enthusiasm for the Senegal star's Premier League debut for the club, an overlooked feature of the opening-day win at Arsenal was the lack of questioning of the England striker's whereabouts.

Sturridge was fit to travel to London a week ago, but Klopp explained that he wanted him to remain on Merseyside to work on his sharpness after more minor injuries.

"He was not match fit last week. That's how it is in football," said Klopp.

"If you don't have other options, you need to take what you can get because you can't switch the game to another date. Sometimes players have to play with 60 or 70pc of fitness, but when you have options you need to use the time with the other players and bring them fitness-wise to the next level. Dan had a pre-season, but it was interrupted with a few little injuries.

"Of course he is an option when he is fit. Oh my God. There is no doubt about that. I know about his quality."

That use of the word "option" regarding Sturridge is a sign of how Liverpool's squad has evolved over 12 months. At the start of last season, and the one before, Liverpool's aspirations were conditional on Sturridge's fitness. His injuries were debilitating to the club as much as his career. He was not an "option" when fit, but a certain starter.

Now the greater good will be served by Klopp rotating strikers, and should Sturridge get used to being one of several permutations it can ensure he remains healthier and the obsession about his inclusion will disappear.

"I don't want to transform Daniel Sturridge into a marathon runner," said Klopp. "I hope that we defend so smart that we won't have to always run like devils. I was really pleased with the goals we scored at Arsenal. The free-kick was genius, but the other goals - it was like 36, 40 passes in a row. We need this in each game."

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