Former Liverpool star Michael Owen believes Daniel Sturridge will be hurt by Jurgen Klopp's decision to leave him on the bench during the Reds' UEFA Europa League semi-final first leg with Villarreal on Thursday.
The England striker was forced to watch from the sidelines as Liverpool came within minutes of a 0-0 draw at El Madrigal before Adrian Lopez bagged an injury-time winner to give his side a slim lead to take into the return leg, and BT Sport pundit Owen sympathised with Sturridge:
According to the MailOnline's Anthony Hay, he added:
Klopp would have been in two minds who to play, if I was Sturridge I would be really disappointed especially as they've played an attacking midfielder [Roberto Firmino] in his place.
It's very difficult for Sturridge. Actions speak louder than words and he must be disappointed with [Divock] Origi being out. Strikers are a funny breed and you don't feel wanted when you're left out. It will leave a scar.
Fellow pundit Steve McManaman said: "Sturridge just needs to keep his head down. I expected him to play. It has really surprised me, but I think it's because they are away from home and wanted to be really compact."
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher and Bleacher Report UK's Jack Lusby believed Klopp was wrong to leave out the striker:
Indeed, that seemed to be the case as Liverpool struggled to cause their opponents significant problems without a recognised centre-forward on the pitch, per Squawka's Amar Singh:
Though Christian Benteke was eventually brought on, and with his aerial presence he is a striker who can make the most of balls pumped into the box, the Belgian has scored just once in 2016.
Per BT Sport Football, Klopp said prior to the game it was a "very difficult decision" to bench Sturridge:
The Reds will need to score at least once at Anfield to take the game to extra time and will need at least three if Villarreal find the net.
As by far Liverpool's most prolific front man—he has a goal for every 100 minutes he's played in the Premier League this season—Sturridge is the ideal candidate to lead a comeback in the return leg.
Benteke's form inspires little confidence, and while Firmino is a fine player, he's not a natural striker and lacks the killer instinct and penetration the Englishman can provide.
The Reds are still firmly in the tie, but to reach the Europa League final Klopp needs to learn from the mistakes he made in the first leg—starting with Sturridge's absence from the side.