Daniel Sturridge has suffered another injury setback and will not be in contention to play for Liverpool against Stoke City on Tuesday in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals. Although Sturridge is a fine player when fit, this latest news underscores the notion that Liverpool cannot depend on the injury-prone striker when planning for the future.
Manager Jurgen Klopp delivered the news in his Monday press conference. During his remarks to reporters (h/t Andy Hunter at the Guardian), the German said:
Daniel has had some problems, not serious, but he could not make all the sessions and we had to wait a day. It is how a pre-season can be. Some little things happen and we have to handle this. It is not a row of sessions and we say: "Now we are here and go …" I will pick him when he is ready, I will not hold him back. But he has not had one session with the team so he is not available.
This latest setback comes after Sturridge, 26, started an individual training regimen designed to bring him back to full fitness. Liverpool decided on the strategy following Sturridge's most recent injury, a hamstring strain during a match against Newcastle United on Dec. 6.
On Boxing Day, Sturridge declared himself fit. Via Twitter, he wrote:
However, the England international still has not played since the Newcastle match and is stuck on five Premier League appearances (three starts) for the season. He has scored four goals this term, including a brace in an impressive 6-1 win at Southampton on Dec. 3.
After the game, Patrick Surlis at Sky Sports argued that Sturridge can be a star under Klopp:
The forward marked his return with a vintage display, demonstrating just how valuable he can be to Liverpool if he keeps himself fit.
That's a big if, but on this evidence, Sturridge could be the perfect forward to lead the line under Klopp. He took both goals brilliantly, beating Steven Caulker for the opener before dispatching a clinical half-volley for his second four minutes later.
If Sturridge can get back to his best, and he's not far away, then Liverpool will be a serious attacking force this season.
Citing the player's "vast qualities," the Daily Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson wrote that Sturridge can still move ahead of Harry Kane in England's pecking order up front. "It is still hard to think of a more instinctively dangerous player when he is fully fit than Daniel Sturridge," Wilson noted.
That's a fair assessment, and it's also worth pointing out that while Liverpool have multiple striking options, none have convinced this season. Even after scoring the winner against Leicester City on Dec. 27, Christian Benteke didn't look like a £32.5 million center forward, as per Bleacher Report contributor Matt Ladson.
So there's room for Sturridge to thrive at Liverpool, if only he can stay fit. The problem is that football fans have been saying something similar about the player for years.
Now his new manager is echoing those concerns. Per the Guardian, Klopp continued:
What Daniel has to do at this moment is hard work to be prepared for the things we make in a football game. He has not had a complete pre-season in a long time. In pre-season we load our bodies with strength, energy, all we need for the games and then the problems start. It would be easy for me to say: "Come on, let’s try, we have problems, we don’t score enough goals, let’s see what will happen" but we have to wait and be patient.
But patience is not something that football fans and club directors are known for. Top-level football is all about results, and the Premier League is no different. Sturridge has tremendous potential, but injuries have consistently hampered him throughout his career.
While it would be a mistake to give up on Sturridge just yet, Liverpool would be wise to avoid counting on him as well. With the January transfer window open, Klopp may well consider a signing up front to strengthen the Reds' league campaign. And in the summer, the club will have to evaluate striking options as they do every year.
It would be nice to see Sturridge overcome his injury problems and fulfill his potential. But as this latest setback shows, Liverpool can't count on that happening.