Daniel Sturridge returned from six months on the sidelines in the 67th minute against West Ham in Liverpool’s final match of January. Thirteen minutes later, he scored, powering his shot past Adrian with his weaker foot. Sturridge was back and, it seemed, he hadn’t missed a beat. A month on, though, and that all—the promise and hope and even the goal itself—seems presumptuous.
After looking so good in his return, Sturridge has largely struggled since. He has looked short of match fitness and hesitant on the ball, hesitating on the ball and wasting countless opportunities he would have buried before his lengthy layoff. It’s not surprising, really. To be expected, even, given how long he was out. But after the way he marked his return, it’s nonetheless been disappointing to watch him struggle.
"Daniel isn’t fully fit yet and it’s difficult for him because these are not training matches for him to work on his fitness in," said manager Brendan Rodgers when asked about his star striker. "But he’s excited about the new system. Put a fully fit Daniel Sturridge in this system and he will light it up again. Now come the end of the week, Daniel should be [fully fit] and able to play every game."
That doesn’t answer whether Sturridge will start on Wednesday against Burnley, though having started on the bench over the weekend the expectation will be that he does. The bigger test may come later in the week, when Rodgers’ assertion that Sturridge is nearly ready to start every match again will be put to the test when Liverpool face Blackburn in the sixth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
"He’s not been quite ready for the speed of the Premier League, so we’ve been trying to fit him in in games," added the manager. "The Europa League was a chance for him to get some game time, but after so long out and with his history here it was something we had to keep in mind. The last thing we wanted to do was break him."