When talk over the summer turned to questions of who would replace departed top scorer Luis Suarez, there was only ever one answer. And it was never some flashy new signing or high-risk reclamation projected. The answer was always right there, already at the club. The man meant to replace Luis Suarez was second top scorer Daniel Sturridge.
Injuries, though, soon derailed that hope. Sturridge's last game for Liverpool was at the end of August, when the Reds demolished Tottenham on the road, recalling some of their best performances of last season. Since then, Sturridge has been sat on the trainer's table recovering. And since then, Liverpool have struggled to look consistently dangerous in attack.
"It has been the most difficult time for myself," said the striker, reflecting on the two months he's spent sidelined. "Since I got the first injury with England, it has been mentally difficult to deal with it. I want to be playing and I'm putting pressure on myself to get back. I miss it and I want to be out there. Not being able to help has been the hardest thing for me."
Given Liverpool's struggles in his absence, when he does return the pressure will be even harder for Sturridge to hit the kind of highs he did last season. However, after a truncated pre-season and a two-month layoff, Sturridge stepping back into the starting eleven as goal scoring savour might be too much to ask the 25-year-old striker.
"For me to be missing games is devistating, but I have to deal with it," he said. "I've been pushing myself in training day in, day out, making sure that when I come back I'm prepared and not going to break down, but it has been difficult after the World Cup not having a proper pre-season and going straight in and picking up an injury."
Sturridge won't be in consideration to play this weekend against Newcastle, though after a setback to start the month he is again nearing fitness and is likely to be ready either to face Real Madrid mid-week or Chelsea next weekend. And even if he's likely to be a little rusty, he's looking forward to his return—and to the chance to help Liverpool get their season on track.
"We were very close last season," said the striker. "This season we're trying our best to get back into the Champions league, and we're trying to achieve something in terms of a trophy. It's about being a winner—I love that feeling of having something to show for it. I know what's expected of myself and what's expected when you put on a Liverpool shirt."