Daniel Sturridge made his long awaited return to action yesterday, in what was his first appearance since the 31st August. The return will surely bring a fresh boost of confidence for a Liverpool team who have been grinding out wins recently, and after 2 impressive performances against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup Semi-Final, the 2-0 victory at home to West Ham moves the Reds above their opponents and into 7th place, just 4 points off 4th place, something that looked very distant a few months back.
Sturridge, who notched 21 goals in 29 League games last season, returns to help bolster Brendan Rodgers’ attack which has relied mainly on the services of Raheem Sterling this season, with signings Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli unable to make an impact when given the opportunity. His goals are not all Liverpool have been lacking. They have missed his work rate and tenacity that puts the opposition under so much pressure. So far this season the centre-forwards have not been doing enough of the leg work and Sterling has been playing out of position as a lone striker of late. Liverpool have certainly missed Sturridge, and hopefully for Liverpool fans they will get to see more of the attacking fluidity they had last season. Albeit without a certain Luis Suarez.
On his return, Sturridge was given a solid 20 minutes by Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool look to gradually get the English forward back to full fitness. As he usually does, Sturridge was in and around the box and managed to get several attempts off at goal, one of which found the back of the net to cap off a fine return to 1st team action after such a length period away from the game.
If we look at the difference in Liverpool’s season after 23 games, compared to the same stage last season, we can see that they are a massive 22 goals behind where they were this time last year. In addition to that, the teams that were in the top 4 at this stage last season, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, all finished in the top 4 at the end of the season. This season, the teams in the top 4 are currently: Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Southampton.
It was an impressive return to Premier League action for Liverpool, who bowed out to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup, which must have given the confidence a massive dent, however, Liverpool’s reaction was spot on. A vital 3 points in the chase for fourth place, and a clean sheet to wrap off a good afternoon.
Next up Liverpool travel to Bolton on Wednesday night for their FA Cup replay, followed by the Merseyside derby on Saturday evening. A game in which Liverpool will surely look to give Sturridge more minutes and look to make it 4 consecutive Premier League victories. The Everton match will also be Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby before his summer departure to LA Galaxy, which no doubt will add an extra incentive for both sets of players.