Rodgers wants Sturridge to step up

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AFP

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring against Stoke on his return from injury. Picture: AFP Photo/Andrew Yates

Liverpool – Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes Daniel Sturridge can still take his game to another level as the title-chasing Reds face Aston Villa on Saturday.

Sturridge had been out since the end of November with an ankle problem but came off the bench to score one goal and set up another for Luis Suarez in Liverpool's 5-3 win at Stoke last weekend.

Rodgers must now decide how to reintegrate the England striker into his starting line-up against Villa at Anfield.

Suarez has already scored 22 goals this season and in the absence of Sturridge, Brazilian Philippe Coutinho and England winger Raheem Sterling have impressed in the wide positions in a front three.

The only way to cram all four players into his team may see Rodgers switch from a flexible 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation against Paul Lambert's Villa.

Before his injury, Sturridge, who joined from Chelsea 12 months ago, had managed 10 goals in his 13 Premier League appearances this season.

Rodgers, whose fourth placed side are six points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal, was impressed by Sturridge's sharpness on his return and he thinks the forward can make a major contribution in the second half of the season.

“My opinion on Daniel has only been reinforced through the time that I have worked with him,” Rodgers said.

“Overall I think he's got a wonderful opportunity over the next couple of years of being world-class.

“He has every tool, he has every quality to be a world-class striker, similar to what Luis Suarez is.

“If we get him onto the field on a regular basis, if he gets a bit of luck and stays clear of injury, then he can be world-class for sure.

“This period out with injury has refreshed him mentally. He comes back in the second part of the season now in a real good moment.

“I think it really signified how hard he worked in his injury period when he came into the game at the weekend.

“He made an immediate impact, physically he looked very strong and mobile and fast in his reactions. That's a great credit to him and how focused he's been on getting back.”

The Reds are looking for a fourth straight victory to maintain their push for a Champions League spot and keep in touch with the leaders.

Mamadou Sakho and Joe Allen could be available after injuries, but Daniel Agger, Jon Flanagan and Jose Enrique remain on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa manager Lambert has confirmed he will draft Grant Holt straight into the squad for the trip to Anfield.

The Scot has signed the striker, who he managed while in charge at Norwich, on loan until the end of the campaign from Championship side Wigan.

“Holty will be in the squad, it was a no brainer bringing in him in,” Lambert said.

“He was fantastic at Norwich at three years and I'm sure the Norwich fans will hold in great esteem. He was such a great character.

“I know what I'm going to get. I think he will surprise a few people. I call him an old-fashioned number nine.

“You need characters. We have one or two already but the more you enhance it the better it becomes. If he can repeat what he did at Norwich he will be a handful.”

Villa defender Nathan Baker will not feature after suffering concussion in the 2-1 home defeat to Arsenal on Monday.

“Nathan is not feeling pretty good,” said Lambert. “He's still groggy and still has a sore head. He won't be available.” – Sapa-AFP


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