Liverpool (AFP), By Timothy Abraham
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says he has no concerns about how Daniel Sturridge will fit into his redefined formation ahead of the striker’s long-awaited comeback from injury.
Sturridge will be in Liverpool’s squad for their Premier League clash against West Ham at Anfield on Saturday having not played for the Reds since the end of August with calf and thigh problems.
Rodgers reverted to a fluid 3-4-3 system during a lean spell of results in Sturridge’s absence and Liverpool saw a marked improvement.
The formation change has rarely used a traditional striker, with Raheem Sterling occupying a central role while Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini have often been named among the substitutes.
However, Rodgers has no reservations about Sturridge’s ability to adapt to the way Liverpool now play.
“Daniel will bring something really creative and quality to the team,” Rodgers said.
“Then it’s a case of managing in behind that. The system does not have to change. It’s there and the players are there if we have to do it.
“We are very much built around the collective, but it doesn’t half help when you have someone to finish it off at the top end of the field and have that power and pace that Daniel has.
“In the last few days he was brilliant. He’s been really dynamic, fast, strong in the finish and sharp. But we have to be careful with him as well.”
– Rodgers rues Sturridge absence –
Rodgers also claimed that had England international Sturridge been available for most of the campaign Liverpool would currently be in the Champions League places, as opposed to being in the chasing pack challenging for a top four spot.
“No question,” Rodgers added. “I think it’s had a huge impact on our season.
“He hasn’t played and the team struggled for a few months, but thankfully we’ve now nailed down a way of working and returned to our football ideals.
“The team is becoming better and better, and when you throw Daniel into that, he shines a different light and adds another dimension.”
Liverpool will check on the fitness of centre-back Mamadou Sakho, who injured his back in the League Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea, while right-back Jon Flanagan (knee) and reserve goalkeeper Brad Jones (hip) remain out.
West Ham have not won at Anfield since 1963 but enjoyed a 3-1 success against Rodgers’ side at Upton Park earlier in the season.
Hammers manager Sam Allardyce believes Liverpool will be much tougher prospect with Sturridge available.
“Liverpool are in the best form of the season at the moment,” he said.
“The way they are now playing is up there with the level they were at last season.
“They obviously didn’t have the massive goal threat that they had last year with Luis Suarez gone and Sturridge injured.
“It sounds like there is a good chance Sturridge will feature against us whether off the bench or not.
“We’ll give it our best shot and hopefully we’ll get a result. We beat Liverpool earlier in the season — that was a major shock at the time.”
Two goals in the first seven minutes helped West Ham to that September success, but they will go into the rematch having won just one of their last five Premier League outings.
“That win was a while ago now, the challenge now is to get a result away from home,” Allardyce added.
“Getting results away at the big boys is a key challenge for ourselves. We need to rise to the challenge.
“Doing the double over one of the best teams doesn’t happen very often in life but it is a possibility.
“We’ll have to be in top form and every player at 100 percent and then take the opportunities we do get.”