Daniel Sturridge has become Liverpool’s most indispensible player. The nimble 25-year-old has eclipsed beloved club captain Steven Gerrard as the player whom Liverpool simply cannot do without.
This Saturday, Liverpool host bad-blooded neighbors Everton at 7:45 AM Eastern time. Sturridge is facing a race to recover from a thigh strain to feature in the 223rd Merseyside derby.
The Reds are a different team when Sturridge is healthy. Liverpool demolished Tottenham 3-0 when he last featured. Without him, Liverpool suffered embarrassing Premier defeats to West Ham and Aston Villa. Liverpool has fallen from fifth-place to 11th in the Premier League table during Sturridge’s absence.
Manager Brendan Rodgers has recently described Liverpool as “a little bit broken.” Sturridge can be the man who sparks a sluggish Liverpool back into life.
A combination of quick-burst acceleration, boundless energy, superb technique and eye for goal has made Sturridge one of the Premier League’s most prolific strikers. Since joining Liverpool, Sturridge has scored a remarkable 32 goals in 46 Premier League appearances.
Earlier this season, Sturridge set a modern club record by scoring 37 goals in his first 50 games as a Liverpool player. You would have to look back to the late 19th century to find a more clinical goal-scorer through their first 50 games at the club. Scottish striker George Allen scored 41 goals in 50 games.
Rodgers is crossing his fingers in hope that Sturridge will be ready for Saturday’s big test against Everton.
“We’ll be very happy to have him back and we hope that can be this weekend,” Rodgers said during in a pre-match press conference. “We’ve got a number of injuries that we’re going to give every chance to. He is a player who’s out on the field working. Him and a number of others we’ll just assess nearer the time. But if he doesn’t make it he won’t be far off after that.”
Even if Sturridge isn’t fit enough to start in the Merseyside derby, he could steal a late win for Liverpool as an impact sub off the bench.
Everton has been the Premier League’s most leaky defense, surrendering 13 goals through five games. A combination of Sturridge, lightning-quick attacking midfielder Raheem Sterling and powerful striker Mario Balotelli could cause havoc to Everton’s defense. The Toffees are coming off a poor showing against Crystal Place where they suffered a 3-2 defeat at Goodison Park.
It should be noted that Liverpool has conceded more goals than they’re scored through five Premier League games. The Reds have netted seven times and surrendered eight goals for a minus-one goal difference. Expensive summer recruit Dejan Lovren and French defender Mamadou Sakho have struggled mightily.
Former Manchester United right back and Sky Sports analyst Gary Neville blasted Sakho via Twitter:
Neville tweeted: “Has Sakho ever headed a ball where he wants it to go?”
Has Sakho ever headed a ball where he wants it to go?
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) September 20, 2014
A central defense pairing of Martin Skrtel and Lovren is likely to start on Saturday, with Sakho relegated to the bench. Liverpool need Lovren to replicate the steady performances at Southampton that convinced the Reds to pry him from the Saints for a £20 million fee.
The 223rd edition of the Merseyside derby has all the makings of a high-scoring affair. Liverpool are certainly the favorites given the Anfield roar behind them and the possibility of Sturridge making a memorable cameo by scoring the match-winner and doing his trademark dance.
WEEK SIX PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS:
Last week’s predictions can be viewed here.
EVERTON AT LIVERPOOL (Saturday, 7:45 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Liverpool 3-2 Everton.
MAN CITY AT HULL CITY (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Man City 2-0 Hull.
SWANSEA CITY AT SUNDERLAND (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Swansea 2-1 Sunderland.
LEICESTER CITY AT CRYSTAL PALACE (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Leicester 1-1 Crystal Palace.
ASTON VILLA AT CHELSEA (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Aston Villa.
WEST HAM AT MAN UNITED (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Man United 3-2 West Ham.
QPR AT SOUTHAMPTON (Saturday, 10:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Southampton 2-0 QPR.
TOTTENHAM AT ARSENAL (Saturday, 12:30 PM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Spurs.
BURNLEY AT WEST BROM (Sunday, 11:00 AM Eastern Time)
Prediction: West Brom 1-0 Burnley.
NEWCASTLE UNITED AT STOKE CITY (Monday, 3:00 PM Eastern Time)
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Newcastle.
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