We've spent most of the summer worrying about what's going to happen with Luis Suarez, then getting annoyed with what's going to happen with Luis Suarez, then denying what's going to happen with Luis Suarez, and now--at least I hope--getting to the point that nobody wants to really hear about what's going to happen with Luis Suarez. Not because there's a lot of emotion still invested, but mostly that it's all we've heard about ever. So let's talk about another very talented and influential striker in Liverpool's squad, because Daniel Sturridge finally made his return to training today, and that's a very good thing.
The young Englishman spent most of the spring helping lead Liverpool's attack, first with Suarez and then with Philippe Coutinho after Suarez missed the last few weeks of season. His arrival in January was accompanied by uncertainty and skepticism, but by season's end it was hard to imagine the squad without Sturridge involved, and the prospect of a full season for he, Suarez, and Coutinho (with summer additions) was a wonderful prospect.
So naturally he gets injured three weeks after the season ends, leaving questions as to whether or not he'd be able to recover in time to start the 2013-2014 season. That might be a big ask at this point, but Brendan Rodgers sounds optimistic:
"Thankfully Daniel had his first training session today with the team and I thought he looked very, very sharp. He obviously had an injury at the end of the season which set him back, but he's worked very hard along with the medical guys who have done a great job with him. It's a great testament to him he's kept himself fit and it was just waiting for the right time to introduce him.
"The game on Wednesday will probably be too much for him so we'll look towards the weekend. It's important he has another good week's training and it was great to see him back today, because for me he can be one of the top strikers in the Premier League this season. He's played no part in the pre-season so you put him in at the top end of the field with his pace, power and his quality and we are able to add something more to the group as well. So it all bodes well for us for the beginning of the season and sets us up nice and solid and exciting for the first game."
Having Sturridge fit for the Stoke match would be a huge boost, even if he's not quite ready to start. Adding his name to the mix immediately improves the attack, as Rodgers notes, and would at minimum give them another impact substitute off the bench. In his few substitute appearances since joining, he was remarkably effective; against Manchester United he scored one and should have had another, and against Chelsea he turned in the best ten minutes of football anyone's ever played as part of an excellent second-half display.
Once he's back for good he'll very likely be the main man up top, which is a prospect he'll no doubt relish. His personality seems one that expects to be the focal point, and so long as he delivers, there's no problem at all. He'll need to find a way to consistently influence matches while keeping himself fit, two challenging tasks given his track record, but he's got the potential to have a huge impact this season.