Sturridge Fit for Swansea?

Toying with United was Danny's favourite thing - Alex Livesey

It's a real testament to the impact Daniel Sturridge has had since he first donned the Liverbird, that many fans are pinning their hopes for an extension of Liverpool's four wins from four on his swift return to fitness in time for Monday's clash with Swansea.

You may remember when po-faced vacuous pundits said that without the sinuously vibrant presence of Luis Suarez in their attack, Liverpool would be doomed to a future of crushing mediocrity. So consistently dominant was the Uruguayan's form and goalscoring, that it was easy to follow the lead of the likes of the snugly-trousered Jamie Redknapp and bemoan the prospect of a Liverpool future sans the forearm nibbler's particular brand of streetballer magic.

However, Suarez's liberal interpretation of the term 'biting tackle' ensured that a spell without his presence was exactly what the club would have to endure. In the interim, the emergence of Daniel Sturridge as the focal point of the attack has been a revelation. In previous games, following his January arrival, Sturridge had combined well with our number seven, but it was in his absence that the England man shone brightest, as he and Philippe Coutinho hinted at a brave new world of possibility for Brendan Rodgers' team.

With a goal in each of the club's opening matches, including the solitary winner in all three Premier League matches, Daniel Sturridge is now the main man. Against Manchester United, the striker was self-admittedly no better than "seventy five per cent" fit, struggling with a thigh injury which has seen him in rehab at Melwood, when his national team manager would have much preferred to gainfully employ him against Moldova and Ukraine.

During that victory over United, Sturridge was in perpetual motion for the cause but reluctant to sprint hard or even shoot with ferocity. Despite obvious impairment, he still managed a lovely glanced header to win the match. He is clearly revelling in his role as Liverpool's most potent threat and seems, like Kolo Toure and Coutinho, to be relishing the opportunity to start regularly for a big club -- Liverpool, it would seem, despite all the hand-wringing and lamentation about missed targets, can still claim that particular cachet in certain circumstances.

Were Sturridge to miss the clash with Swansea, the needless absence of Suarez from the squad will become more pronounced and irksome. Having farmed out Fabio Borini to Sunderland, the options available to Brendan Rodgers for a central striker start to look thin and it is likely we would see Iago Aspas operating in the role, or as what the football hipsters are calling a false nine. Of course, new recruit Victor Moses will also come into the equation and all Reds will be keen to see what he can add to the offence.

One of the oft-cited staples of Rodgers' forward recruitment policy seems to be an ability to play across any of the front three positions and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that any one of Coutinho, Aspas, Moses, Raheem Sterling or even Jordon Ibe could occupy the predominantly central berth in a fluid and motile attack. The manager is keen on interchangeability of attackers, with each having similarities in their skill-set, and the absence of our Uruguayan superstar, around whom so much of Rodgers' scheming had been self-admittedly based, has resulted in a return to that Plan A.

Of course, everybody's preference would be to see Daniel Sturridge back leading the line in the wonderfully effective manner he has displayed during each of the season's four matches. He is a unique player, possessed of the pace to get away from a defender, yet calm enough to never seem overly concerned by the proximity of same. Sturridge has a wonderfully assured first touch, especially with that tin-opener of a left foot, and seems to create enough space for himself, even with his back to goal, to lift his head and see the bigger picture. Despite the vision of Coutinho and Steven Gerrard, Sturridge has played some of the most incisive passes of the campaign to date, although the merciless pace put on some of them has left colleagues with lesser control red-faced.

One of the more amusing tangential aspects of Sturridge's injury has been the outrage of Little Englanders at his absence from the national squad over the last fortnight. How often over the years have the likes of Alex Ferguson pulled players with 'injuries' from international fixtures, and yet, with our number fifteen genuinely hurt, some of these John Bull types were frothing at the mouth and accusing the Liverpool striker of a lack of patriotism. Indeed Sturridge himself responded snappily to the accusations on Twitter, insisting England was "the pinnacle" but that without his club "platform" he would still be languishing in the Chelsea reserves.

Vindictive and damaged soul that I am, I will never tire of Hodgsonian discomfort. The media darling, championed shamelessly by the Telegraph's oleaginous Henry Winter, was no doubt massively frustrated by the absence of the nation's form-striker as England limped closer to qualification. A man of uniquely blinkered vision, Hodgson will no doubt have forgotten how much time Sturridge spent in rehab following his last England call-up and if the poor man can endure the comfortable free seat the club insults him with the next time he comes to Anfield, I hope he is left squirming in irritated frustration at another superlative display from our dancing striker.

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