Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has not trained with the squad for six weeks, and yet another enforced break from any kind of physical activity has left the club as uncertain as ever about when they will be able to call on him.
Manager Jürgen Klopp’s frustration with the player’s struggle to make himself available is barely concealed and Sturridge has only just returned to the training field again “because of some issues”, as the manager described it.
On whether Sturridge will play in the FA Cup third-round replay against Exeter City at Anfield on Wednesday night, the German said: “There is absolutely no chance for Daniel.”
Klopp will, though, feature young players such as Connor Randall, Tiago Ilori, Brad Smith, Ryan Kent, Cameron Brannagan, Joao Carlos Teixeira and Kevin Stewart, as he did in the 2-2 draw in Devon.
Sturridge has started four games this season – 13 in the last year – and with his Liverpool future in doubt, his former Manchester City team-mate Dietmar Hamman called on Klopp to “stop protecting” the 26-year-old and be candid about the injury which has brought such an extended lay-off.
“The club has got a responsibility to tell the paying public what is wrong with him,” Hamann told TalkSport. “If he has got a hamstring injury, an ankle injury, or whatever he may have, the people who pay for a season ticket have got a right to know what is wrong with him.
“Judging by the way Klopp answered his questions [ahead of the Manchester United game], I don’t think there is too much wrong with the player. If there is nothing wrong with him, it is more important to be honest and truthful with the paying public than to protect a player who has hardly played in the last 18 months, who seems to choose when he wants to play. He has got three years left on his contract and I don’t see any reason, if there is nothing wrong with the player, why the club should protect him.”
Hamann was in the Manchester City side when Sturridge made his senior debut for City, and he claims it was evident early in Sturridge’s career that he was not willing to push himself through the pain barrier. Hamann added: “There was always something wrong with him on the Thursday or the Friday. His back, his hamstring, there was always something.”
Liverpool full-back Jon Flanagan is likely to be on the substitutes’ bench tonight, a full 629 days after he last featured in a Liverpool starting line-up – on the final day of the 2013-14 season. This follows a long struggle with a knee injury and two operations.
Meanwhile, Klopp publicly implored one of his teenager strikers, Jerome Sinclair, to put his future before the financial gain that a rumoured move to Watford would bring.
Klopp said of the 19-year-old: “What we try is to create a situation where younger players know it is not important to get the highest wages in your life in the first year of your career. It is more important to get the real education and that is what we want to try.”