Liverpool’s title aspirations have been given a significant boost by the early return of striker Daniel Sturridge.
The former Chelsea and Manchester City man was in scintillating form at the start of the season – scoring nine goals in 12 games – but has missed the last few weeks after picking up an ankle knock.
However, the forward has impressed Anfield medics with the speed of his recovery, after returning to training this week – a month ahead of schedule – and could even feature in the weekend’s trip to Stoke – for which Liverpool are priced as 4/6 favourites.
The Reds currently sit fourth in the Premier League table – six points behind leaders Arsenal – and have bounced back with two wins in their last two games in all competitions after suffering successive 2-1 defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea respectively over the Christmas period.
The busy festive season also brought with it a raft of injury concerns for Liverpool, making Sturridge’s return all the more welcome.
With crunch ties against Everton and the Gunners coming up over the next few weeks the sight of Sturridge in the starting line-up will boost the confidence of the Kop faithful.
However, if Sturridge can come back in anything like the form he reached prior to his injury then he and fellow hit man Luis Suarez will have the top three looking over their shoulders.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will also be delighted by his man’s swift recovery after being frustrated in his dealings in the January transfer window thus far.
Barcelona prospect Cristian Tello had been expected to join Anfield on a loan deal but despite the Spaniard being keen for more first team opportunities the deal now appears dead in the water.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date
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