Why Lucas Will Miss Out as Daniel Sturridge Makes Liverpool Return vs. Chelsea

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Why Lucas Will Miss Out as Daniel Sturridge Makes Liverpool Return vs. Chelsea
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Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield in their penultimate home game of the season, knowing that three points would be a major step towards lifting the Premier League title.

Brendan Rodgers' side have won their last 11 matches in a row, a 12th would mean they need four points from their final two fixtures to guarantee the title. It would also end any hopes Chelsea have of winning the league; Jose Mourinho's side would be eight points behind with six available.

For that reason, combined with the crucial second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid, Mourinho is claiming he will field a weakened side, something Chelsea have reportedly given him the go-ahead to do, as per The Daily Mail.

That certainly won't be the case for Rodgers though, instead his biggest concern is whether to bring forward Daniel Sturridge back into the starting XI against his former club.

Sturridge missed last week's win at Norwich City with the hamstring injury he suffered against Manchester City the week before but has been declared fit for Sunday.

"I'm not too sure if he'll [Rodgers] play me or not," Sturridge told The Daily Mirror. "We'll have to see."

 

Sturridge Impact

Clearly, having Sturridge in the team would hugely benefit Liverpool. The 24-year-old has 20 Premier League goals to his name this season and the triple threat of him, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling has been a key component of The Reds' unexpected title surge.

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Having Sturridge in the line-up would allow Rodgers great tactical flexibility; either lining those three alongside each other in a 4-3-3, or dropping Sterling back into the midfield diamond and using Sturridge and Suarez as a front two, as he did against City.

Sturridge showed at the start of the season that he is capable of quickly recovering from injury and it shouldn't affect him against the club he joined Liverpool from 16 months ago.

"I would like to show respect to my former club, but if I were to come on and score in the last minute I'm going to be on a mad one, aren't I?" Sturridge jokes, as per The Mirror.

Midfielder Jordan Henderson will be suspended again for the clash, but knows the role Sturridge can play.

"He is a massive player for us," Henderson told Sky Sports.

"The last game against Norwich I thought we did brilliantly, but it's always a bonus to have a player like Daniel back, so hopefully he is fit and can do the business at the weekend."

 

Who To Drop?

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

If Sturridge returns, Rodgers will need to replace one of the starting XI from last week's Norwich trip, with Lucas Leiva the obvious candidate.

Lucas and Joe Allen came into the side replacing Henderson and Sturridge, with Allen in particular impressing.

Lucas looked off the pace at times and gave away several needless fouls. The Brazilian is struggling to find form and fitness after further injury layoffs this campaign.

 

Line-Up

Rodgers then would be able to start the same side that beat Man City, with Allen replacing Henderson.

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Allen would be alongside Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho in midfield, with Sterling at the top of the diamond and Suarez and Sturridge up front.

Such a fluid formation should cause Chelsea's defence—whoever is selected—plenty of problems.

Rodgers could play more cautiously and keep Lucas in the side and have Sturridge on the bench. However, the Northern Irishman has shown on numerous occasions that he does not fear anybody, especially at Anfield, and instead he prefers to play his most attacking side from the off; Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and City being the prime examples.

Most likely is Sturridge starting, with Lucas being an option to come on in the second half and (hopefully) protect any lead that has been established.

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