EPL: Unleash Sturridge

EPL: Unleash Sturridge
Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates his goal during their English Premier League soccer match against West Ham United at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England January 31, 2015.

Daniel Sturridge pleaded to be unshackled.

The Liverpool striker pencilled in the Merseyside Derby for his return to the starting 11, following a long spell in the treatment room.

But Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers would not oblige. It was a risk he wasn't prepared to take.

The prospect of a recurrence of the injuries that put Sturridge on the sidelines for 32 straight matches in all club competitions, just as Liverpool are galvanising themselves for a late charge at Champions League qualification, was deemed too big a gamble.

Rodgers would rather plonk a very green Jordon Ibe on the right flank than make room for a fired-up Sturridge.

So, the striker's wait continues.

But the time has come.

When Tottenham Hotspur visit Anfield tomorrow morning (Singapore time), Rodgers must unleash his most potent weapon.

The final push for a top-four spot can no longer wait.

With only slightly more than one-third of the season to go, the Reds remain the outsiders and are in danger of losing even more ground.

In seventh place and five points away from Manchester United in fourth spot, Liverpool are certainly in a better place than when they started the season.

Their upturn in fortunes began in mid-December after a 3-0 away loss to United and, since then, they have gone eight games unbeaten in the league.

But, as their recent League Cup semi-final elimination by Chelsea had shown, a lack of cutting edge in the penalty box continues to hamper them.

Deploying Raheem Sterling as the spearhead in a false No. 9 system covers up the team's deficiencies adequately, but the lack of a natural predator up front still shows.


The urgent need to unleash Sturridge in the starting 11 against Spurs stems not only from the Reds' wasteful finishing, but also because they have been somewhat of a flat-track bully.

Apart from an early-season 3-0 victory over a Spurs side still finding their feet, Rodgers has otherwise failed to engineer a win over the Premiership's traditional top teams.

There were defeats by the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea.

At home to Arsenal, they could only draw 2-2 and, that too, by the skin of their teeth.

Sturridge brings to his team the qualities to move them up another gear the way Liverpool's rivals have consistently managed in tight contests.

The Reds need Sturridge's precision, pace and panache against Mauricio Pochettino's fifth-placed outfit tomorrow morning.

They need his assured touches and predatory instincts in the opponents' penalty area.

But, as The New Paper's football analyst Ray Houghton has pointed out: "Has this fixture come one game too early for Sturridge?"

Since returning to action at the end of last month, after missing five months of competitive football, he has made three substitute appearances totalling 86 minutes.

In his first game back from injury, he netted in the 2-0 win over West Ham.

The combination of a brilliant first touch and sharp finishing should hearten Liverpool. The prolonged absence hasn't dulled the edge of his game.

Rodgers' patience and resolve in the handling of Sturridge have been admirable and understandable.

But enough of caution.

He has no more cards left to play, except for the England striker, his final ace.



This article was first published on Feb 10, 2015.
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