Beaten Capital One Cup semi-finalists Liverpool will hardly have welcomed waking up to more rumours linking star winger Raheem Sterling to revived interest from Real Madrid.
Unfortunately for the Reds, whose only chance of domestic silverware now lies in their 11/2-rated FA Cup bid, Sterling is yet to sign a proposed new deal at Anfield.
Despite his current contract stretching out until 2017, until such time as the 20-year-old commits his long-term future to Liverpool, speculation about potential £50m+ bids from Los Blancos or Chelsea are unlikely to cease.
However, a factor which could well sway Sterling to finally pledge himself to the club which have facilitated his rise to stardom, is the imminent return of Daniel Sturridge.
The England striker, who’s been out of action since August, has not just been sorely missed by last season’s runners-up as a whole, but acutely by Sterling himself.
The pair linked up brilliantly during the 2013/14 campaign which so nearly brought Liverpool their first ever Premier League trophy.
With Sturridge in the team, Sterling will once again be free to operate in more natural attacking midfield positions rather than being forced to lead the line as he has done for some months.
While Sterling has willingly accepted the responsibility of spearheading Brendan Rodgers’ attack, there’s no doubt number nine isn’t his most effective deployment on the pitch.
Although Sterling has scored seven times in all competitions this season, last term with Sturridge leading the line, his best performances came when playing at the tip of a midfield diamond or from the flank in a 4-3-3.
Using his phenomenal pace and close control, the former QPR trainee is far more valuable to Liverpool picking up the ball in space and running at defenders who are often likely to be backpedalling.
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