Striker primed for new campaign after making injury comeback
Brendan Rodgers has urged Daniel Sturridge to prove he is one of the top strikers in England – with the player vowing he is ready to start the new campaign after making his comeback from injury.
Sturridge made his first appearance of pre-season in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Celtic in Dublin having been sidelined by an ankle problem suffered while on England duty in May.
The 23-year-old netted 11 goals in 16 appearances last season having made a £12million move from Chelsea in January.
And Rodgers has challenged the forward to further realise his long-touted potential – which will be required in the ongoing absence of Luis Suarez.
“I think Daniel is aware of the opportunity in front of him,” said the Liverpool manager. “There were maybe teething problems when he came in in January but once he got his head around that and the demands of playing at a big club regularly then he was terrific.
“He has wanted to be in this position – leading the attack for a big club with everything that brings – and it is just now about making himself available as much as he can.
“I am sure that this season he can demonstrate that is a top striker.”
Sturridge was lively during a 45-minute cameo against Celtic and will have a further chance to improve his fitness in a behind closed doors game later this week ahead of Saturday’s Premier League opener at home to Stoke City.
“He was in really good form at the end of last season which got him called up for England and it was unfortunate that he got a bad injury, but I can have no complaints at how he has worked,” added Rodgers.
“We will have a behind closed doors game for him this week when the others are on international duty just to keep those who are not away ticking over and for those, like him, who need games.
“It is about getting Daniel up to speed. He is actually ahead of schedule coming back.”
Sturridge, though, is already confident he can be called upon to lead the line from the start for the visit of the Potters.
“I'm fit and good to go,” he said. “If I'm selected against Stoke then I'll be ready.
“I didn't think I'd be as sharp as I was, to be honest, so I'm happy! I would have loved to have scored and marked my return with a goal, but the important thing was to leave the pitch healthy with no injury or anything.
“I'm delighted to be back. I want to say thanks to the physio, Matt (Konopinski), and the fitness coach, Jordan (Milsom), for all the hard work they've done with me.
“It's been a long road – a bumpy one at that – but I'm delighted to be back out there and I'm thankful to God for healing my injury so quickly because I wasn't sure I'd be back for the start of the season.”
Of his lengthy rehabilitation, Sturridge added: “It's been very difficult, to be honest. You want to be involved in pre-season and you want get your sharpness, get to know your new teammates, be able to work and get your peak fitness.
“I've not been able to do that – I've been at Melwood and I haven't been doing much running.
“There were some days where my ankle would hurt or I'd feel more tired than I usually would. It's been a bumpy road but we've put the work in