Someone could write a folk song about Daniel Sturridge and his myriad of injury problems that have plagued his whole career. Sometimes it seems that he’s hurt more than he’s fit, and a step forward in his recovery in followed by two steps back. How many times, over the years, have Liverpool fans gotten excited over a stellar performance by their star striker, only to have Sturridge fall to another injury before the next match?
With the more durable Roberto Firmino now Klopp’s number one choice to lead the line, Sturridge finds himself in an uphill battle for game time. If ever he was going to prove himself and retake his spot on the team, it would be in the next month, thanks to Sadio Mané heading off to the African Cup of Nations and Philippe Coutinho recovering from an injury of his own.
All of that depends on Sturridge’s ability to remain fit enough to put together a good run of matches — a feat that, more and more, seems like a tall order.
Klopp understands the reality of the situation he faces with Sturridge. In an interview, he was quick to point out both Sturridge’s frailties as well as his undeniable quality.
“It would be fantastic, of course, and sometimes you need to feel lucky with timing,” Klopp said. “That's how it is. Sadio is away, Philippe is on the way back and Daniel is already back. That helps, for sure, and I hope it stays like this for him.
“I think it depends. Listen, we have spoken a lot of times about this. Does he stay fit? If Daniel is fit are there any arguments here ever about his quality? No.
“We had the time when he was already fit and he didn’t start because there was a difference between being fit and match fit and all that stuff.
“But it is a big step in the right direction. If he stays on this fitness level and improving as he always should, that is perfect – perfect news for him and for us that he can perform. It would be cool if we could speak like this for the next few weeks and months.”
Cool, indeed, for a team with title aspirations and a fair shot at winning a domestic cup this season. Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi have both proved themselves to be clever and effective goalscorers, but a team with Liverpool’s ambitions can’t afford to lose a player of Sturridge’s quality for long.
Their most recent previous title challenge season, 2013-2014, was also the season when Sturridge stung together a long campaign, playing in an unbelievable 29 out of 38 league games. Of course, that squad also included Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, but it’s still no coincidence that the Reds were able to mount that unforeseen quest for league glory in a season where Daniel Sturridge stuck around long enough to bag himself 21 goals and seven assists.
His next test will likely be the EFL Cup semi-final first leg game away to Southampton on Wednesday, since he was rested at the weekend along with most of the first team when Liverpool hosted Plymouth Argyle in their third round FA Cup stalemate. From there, it’s a short turnaround to the Manchester United game on Sunday.
The rest of the season is a cold, damp slog until spring, and with any luck, Sturridge will make it through.