Reds boost as Sturridge nears return
Daniel Sturridge is likely to return to full training with Liverpool next week, having made a quicker-than-expected recovery from injury.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has already been buoyed by the swift recovery after a hamstring problem of captain Steven Gerrard -- who will rejoin the squad against Hull City tomorrow -- and Sturridge could be available to face Stoke on January 12.
The England striker has missed the last seven Premier League fixtures with an ankle ligament injury and his comeback is timely as Rodgers' squad is stretched to its limit.
Joe Allen faces several weeks out with a groin injury, while Mamadou Sakho suffered a hamstring strain in the 2-1 defeat by Chelsea. Liverpool are already without full-backs Jose Enrique and Jon Flanagan.
"Daniel might not be too far over the next few weeks," said Rodgers. "He was out running the other day doing straight-line running and he is now doing more multi-directional running and then next week he will have a good week of training. He is ahead of schedule so he's doing well.
"Steven will be around it as well. Over the next couple of weeks we will get those players back and it will look brighter for us. Unfortunately Joe will probably be a few weeks with an abductor strain, and with Sakho we're just waiting for confirmation on his hamstring strain."
Rodgers has emphasised the limitations of his squad in recent weeks, the lack of numbers taking their toll during the festive period. He is hoping he will have reinforcements when the transfer window opens.
"We will have some returning players fairly soon and January could be a great springboard for us like it was last year."
Rodgers, meanwhile, says Luis Suarez is an easy target for those seeking to deflect attention from refereeing mistakes in Liverpool's last two fixtures.
Liverpool feel decisions have gone against them at Chelsea and Manchester City, and the suggestion from Jose Mourinho that Suarez tried to dive to earn a penalty at Stamford Bridge was shrugged off by Rodgers.
"I certainly wouldn't think it was an acrobatic dive. It certainly wasn't that. Anybody watching the game would see it wasn't that," said Rodgers.
"Luis is an easy target, isn't he? I think we had a spell over the last year or so where everyone was jumping on Luis' back, saying he was diving.
"I don't think it was that at all. It was a valid claim for a penalty against a player who wasn't even making an effort for the football. It's something that happens.
"Luis has been a remarkable player this year but not only that, everyone has recognised his behaviour has changed, his maturity. This the first time anyone has criticised him for that this season." (© Daily Telegraph, London)