Daniel Sturridge looks to be the subject of the latest club-versus-country row after Brendan Rodgers admitted he was not fit to start the Merseyside derby against Everton on Saturday – instead coming off the bench with 11 minutes to go to salvage a 3-3 draw for Liverpool with his ninth Premier League goal of the season.
Sturridge missed England’s 2-0 defeat to Chile on the first Friday of the international break after he was deemed unfit to feature, but he played the entire match of last Tuesday’s friendly against Germany despite concerns over whether he was anywhere near 100 per cent fit.
Having returned to his club, Rodgers decided that he was not in the right condition to start the weekend encounter at Goodison Park having made the decision during Friday’s training session, although the Reds’ boss has stopped short of putting the entire blame at the door of the Football Association. He instead admitted that Sturridge must be partly responsible for his actions and must learn to analyse his own fitness levels.
“I am looking at him in training on Friday and he is not right. Whose responsibility is that? It is the association, the player,” Rodgers said. “All I can do is look and assess who will give me absolutely everything when they go out on the field.
“We have a game against a massive rival away from home. I need everyone as close to 100 per cent as I possibly can. He is clearly not. A lot of players, especially the top ones, are never 100 per cent fit.
“Suarez will never have been 100 per cent in his time here. Different personalities, different types.”
Rodgers stressed the importance of having his players as close to fully fit as possible, with both Sturridge and Suarez integral to their hopes of securing a Champions League return through a top four finish.
Both have nine goals in the league this season, and they have gelled to form one of the most formidable strike-partnerships in world football – Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo are their only real rivals in the Premier League at this time.
For Rodgers, he understands the need for Sturridge to maintain his form that has seen the Reds make a good start to the season, and he feels that unlike Suarez, who can provide a moment of magic at any time, the Englishman needs to impress in training to ensure he transfers his talent into points.
“Daniel has been a match winner for us throughout his time here but I didn’t feel, because of that level of fitness, he was going to be that for us,” admitted Rodgers, after he elected to bring on Sturridge in the 79th minute which resulted in his equalising goal.
“I have seen it before. There is a trend. There are some games when he hasn’t played well and that has happened on the back of not training. With any player, you have to put yourself on the training field. If you do that, you will be in with a chance of playing.”