It’s been a troublesome year for England’s hottest hitman, but finally Daniel Sturridge is back from injury and helping Liverpool fight to save their season. A goal on his return against West Ham, a tidy strike against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup and a neat header against Burnley would suggest he’s off to a decent start, however he doesn’t yet look quite the player he was.
A relatively poor showing versus Swansea was only summed up as he sold both the defender and ‘keeper attempting to stop him from scoring in the final minutes, only to hit the post. Since his return, Sturridge has lacked a little in the energy he once bought to the team. Truth be told, he’s certainly not back to full fitness yet, but he’s not far off.
The expectation placed on his shoulders upon his return from a little over six months out injured with not one, not two, but three serious thigh injuries was huge. Liverpool fans everywhere watched a new system come together without a clinical spearhead, thinking the grass would be greener from the moment he was back in the side. Not quite the case.
Now he’s back in the side and playing in second gear. A little off the pace, Sturridge looks a set of cojones short of the player who scored a massive twenty-one goals last year. Short on confidence, and lacking that extra yard of pace to latch onto the Coutinho through balls he’s become so accustomed to, he’s in need of a big goal to get his groove on again.
So here’s Brendan Rodgers’ dilemma: does he start him against Manchester United this Sunday or not? It goes without saying that whether he’s fully fit or strapped to the treatment table, he’s Liverpool’s best out and out striker. Nonetheless, with United hitting their stride, Liverpool will need to be on their A-game if they’re to continue the superb form they currently entertain, and that means everyone playing to the top of their ability. Can Daniel muster up the courage?
There’s no doubt that the ex-Chelsea forward is a major threat to United should he show up ready to cause havoc, but with the Red Devils likely to play a similar stifling system to Swansea – which left Liverpool short in midfield in the first half at the Liberty – it’s possible Sturridge could be left very isolated up top, and it’s vital to their pressing game that he finds it in himself to continue to work high up the pitch even when it feels like he’s chasing lost causes.
On the contrary, of course, the boy’s ability isn’t to be second guessed. Fitness permitting, Sturridge won’t come out hiding in his shell. The stage is set for his explosive pace to expose a relatively shaky United defence, and grab the goal he needs to remind him just how much he loves scoring. Bad form will always come to an end (admittedly Fernando Torres still has his fingers crossed), but that can only happen if you’re playing football regularly.
With the faith that Rodgers has shown in Sturridge, it’s doubtful that he’ll leave the emphatic dancer out of his starting lineup come Sunday afternoon. After all, the boy’s got great character, and failure doesn’t look to be an option to last season’s second top scorer. With a show of determination and a little bit of the rub of the green, we may well see a rejuvenated Daniel Sturridge return to his dancing ways this weekend.