Stoke v Liverpool: Daniel Sturridge set to return from injury

Brendan Rodgers backs the England striker to make an immediate impact

Striker Daniel Sturridge is set to return from a lengthy absence to add firepower Liverpool's bid for Champions League football.

A sprained ankle has sidelined the 24-year-old since he scored a last-minute equaliser in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park on November 23.

But the timing of his return to fitness could not be better after a couple of stuttering performances against Hull and then League One Oldham in the FA Cup.

Rodgers believes the England international is ready to make an immediate impact just as he did when he arrived from Chelsea in a £12million deal a year ago.

And the fact he scored the winner against Sunday's opponents Stoke on the opening day of the season only adds to the feelings of a good omen.

"He has made a terrific impact since he came in here and we are working hard with him and his talent to allow that to flourish," said Rodgers.

"Over the last four to five weeks it has obviously been difficult with injuries but having these types of players back and just seeing him on the training field has been really good

"To have someone of that stature and quality back in your group gives you great firepower.

"Thankfully Daniel is one who, having missed almost all of pre-season (with another ankle injury suffered on international duty), came back in, trained for 10 days and started off the season outstandingly

"The make-up of his body is really good and he has looked after himself and looks at a good level fitness-wise.

"We don't need to rush him but we need to make sure he is ready to make an impact in the second half of the season."

In Sturridge's absence Luis Suarez took his own personal form up a notch by setting a Premier League record of 10 goals in December - the first time a player has hit double figures in one calendar month.

It was more than enough to earn him the Barclays player of the month award and Rodgers said it was more than deserved after a difficult summer for the Uruguay international when he tried to fashion a move away.

But having returned from suspension, Suarez responded by scoring 20 goals in just 15 Premier League appearances which resulted in a new and vastly-improved contract being signed a few weeks ago.

Rodgers has noticed a difference in the forward and does believe Suarez has altered his perception on some things - most significantly where the fortunes of the club lie.

"He is 27 later on this month and that and probably his own mindset, thinking he wants to be here, knowing he maybe had to change that little bit, is part of his growing process as a player and a person," the manager added.

"We adore his talent and his personality and his desire to be successful and for us as a football club to have a world-class striker on your books is obviously very important."

Despite having dropped from top spot on Christmas Day Rodgers believes they are on course with expectations this season.

"It was obviously our aim to be challenging where we are but we want to be better than that," he said.

"At this moment in time we are reasonably satisfied with where we are at.

"Our performance level has been, in the main, excellent and our confidence and belief is really high."

The return to fitness of Sturridge and Mamadou Sakho, who has recovered from a hamstring strain, has been tempered by the news Liverpool will be without Daniel Agger for the foreseeable future after he sustained an injury against Oldham last weekend.

"Daniel will probably be three to four weeks as he has unfortunately picked up a calf problem," confirmed Rodgers.

PA

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