The England striker is set to return against Stoke at the weekend…
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According to a report in the Daily Mail, Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge is in contention to return from injury against Stoke City on Sunday in his side’s crucial Premier League fixture.
Sturridge last appeared for Liverpool as a substitute against Everton back in November, where he scored a vital headed goal late on. Before this, the pacey striker had scored eight other Premier League goals, and he was even the top scorer in the league at one point.
His partnership with Luis Suarez up top was particularly outstanding, and the ease and quickness of the pair’s relationship saw them quickly dubbed ‘The SAS’.
Brendan Rodgers now has the rather pleasant task of bringing Sturridge back into a side that has reverted to a 4-3-3 formation in his absence…
This is how Liverpool have lined up in recent weeks, using Raheem Sterling in place of Sturridge:
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Joe Allen came in for the injured Steven Gerrard, and the centre-backs have rotated depending on availability, but essentially – the shape of the team has been the same. Sterling has stayed wide on the right, while Coutinho has been given more freedon to drift in from his line and play a more central, creative role.
Suarez has played up top on his own, and done exceptionally well.
With Sturridge favouring a central striking role, Rodgers has a few formations he could (and has) used, in order to accommodate the return of one his best players…
The wing-back formation, and why it probably won’t be used…
This formation has its benefits and its problems. On a positive note, it enables Suarez and Sturridge to both play in their favoured position, close enough to each other to rekindle their terrific partnership. It also means Coutinho can play in his preferred central no.10 role, meaning he has two strikers to feed intricate through-balls instead of just the one.
However, there are a number of reasons Rodgers is unlikely to revert to this tactic. Firstly, with Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Agger injured, it means he would have to play Tiago Ilori at centre-half, who hasn’t played a game all season.
Secondly, it means that Liverpool will find it harder to keep possession in the middle of the park with only two centre-midfielders. Steven Gerrard and Lucas are both relatively immobile too, so are more comfortable playing in a midfield trio – where they can dictate tempo with short passes.
Lastly, the formation doesn’t suit young winger Raheem Sterling, who has been one of Liverpool’s best players in recent weeks – and provided them with an extra, pacey attacking dimension.
So here’s how Rodgers could keep Sterling wide on the right, but also bring back Sturridge:
This formation is basically Rodgers’ favoured 4-3-3, but relies on talented players being positionally fluid when in an out of possession.
Sturridge could be deployed in his favoured forward role, but may have to drift wide left when the opposition has the ball. When Sturridge is in the box, Coutinho could move out to the wing, or Suarez could even drop deep into a no.10 position. All three of these players have the ability and dexterity on a football field to react to what’s in front of them, and will undoubtedly cause opposition defenders problems with their interchanging positions and excellent movement.
Jordan Henderson’s energy and dynamism is essential to the side, meaning one of either Lucas or Steven Gerrard will play the anchoring role. Against a better side, Rodgers may want to play both Gerrard and Lucas, meaning Henderson will take either Coutinho or Sterling’s place. (He is capable of playing either, meaning one of the young attackers can be used as an exciting bench option.)
However, with Sterling staying wide on the right, the Reds have genuine pace and width. This formation also enables Sturridge and Suarez to rekindle their partnership, while giving the team its much needed midfield base.
Against Stoke City, it’s likely that Rodgers will stick Sturridge on the bench – but for the rest of the season, this could well be the style and team selection used for the top four push.