Are Suarez and Sturridge the best Premier League strike partnership since Yorke and Cole?

Daniel Sturridge Liverpool

Are Liverpool's front-two the best Premier League partnership since Manchester United's treble-winning duo?

Luis Suarez has been phenomenal for Liverpool in recent weeks, but the return of strike-partner Daniel Sturridge from injury could see the Reds take things up to another level.

During Sturridge’s 24-minute cameo at the Britannia Stadium yesterday saw the pair produce some marvellous link-up play, both setting each other up for a goal as Stoke City were finally overcome 5-3 in a thrilling encounter.

Sturridge’s fancy footwork and vision to play in Suarez for the Uruguayan’s second of the game was top class, and Suarez later returned the favour by setting up the former Chelsea man, who bamboozled Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland and got his first goal since the thrilling 3-3 draw in the Merseyside derby in November.

It was Sturridge’s first appearance since then, and while Suarez has been phenomenal in the intervening period Liverpool look an even more formidable opponent with the pair in tandem.

At the start of the season, while Suarez was suspended, Sturridge hit the ground running on his own.

Yet as soon as the 26-year-old returned he resumed a fantastic working relationship with the forward who had joined from Chelsea last January.

While Sturridge had been tipped to reach the top level since his days as a young striker at Manchester City, he failed to establish himself in four years at Stamford Bridge.

Despite Chelsea’s revolving-door of managers, the Blues have in recent seasons usually played with only one striker up front, meaning most of Sturridge’s time there was spent on the wing.

He did have an impressive spell during Andre Villas-Boas’s doomed tenure at Chelsea, when he netted 13 goals, but with Didier Drogba and later Fernando Torres occupying the central berth, opportunities were limited.

He has benefited from Brendan Rodgers’ brave decision to play two up front when both are available and the chemistry between the pair has been a joy to behold.

Jamie Carragher, the pair’s former Anfield team-mate and now TV pundit, described the pair as a “revelation” on Sky Sports.

Carragher said: “Suarez and Sturridge have been a revelation all season.

"It was interesting to see how Liverpool would set up when Sturridge came on. First of all it looked as if Luis was going to go to the left but it looked as though Liverpool went to a 4-4-2 and Jordan Henderson then went to the left.

"Sturridge played in a great ball [for the fourth goal] and Suarez's finish was Thierry Henry-like. Those two are electric up front.

"These are the selection dilemmas that Brendan Rodgers has got now. Philippe Coutinho went off [for Sturridge] and while we've been talking about the position that Henderson plays in the middle of a three, when he brought Sturridge on Liverpool played 4-4-2. Henderson went to the left, Lucas dropped back alongside Steven Gerrard.

"With these players coming back it doesn't just give him options in terms of players and numbers, it gives him options in terms of changing the formation.

"We've seen Liverpool play with a back three this season. It will be interesting with Sturridge coming on and making that impact how Brendan Rodgers sets up in the next few weeks."

Carragher makes a valid point, and it will be interesting to see how Sturridge’s return will affect the likes of Henderson, Coutinho and Lucas who have been performing at a high level during his absence.

When the star duo were together earlier in the season Rodgers preferred to play three at the back, but that did cost Liverpool defensively. They conceded seven goals in five games as opposed to just three in the first five matches of the season when they played four defenders.

With Sturridge out of the side since, Suarez has profited playing in front of five midfielders and a back four but now Rodgers has to think again.

Either Lucas or Henderson is likely to suffer here as 4-4-2 is set to be the way forward.

Gerrard remains the key man in Liverpool’s midfield and Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho have established themselves in the wide positions.

Henderson’s energy has been a major factor in Liverpool’s improvement this season and there is always the possibility that he is played wide, most likely at the expense of Sterling.

But what is certain is that Rodgers simply has to keep Sturridge and Suarez playing together.

Their understanding is a true rarity, one arguably not seen to such an extent in the Premier League since the days when Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole led Manchester United to the treble.

The legendary United partnership were so good for a period that they could keep Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham on the bench.

In their three full seasons together, they plundered an incredible 123 goals in all competitions.

So far this season Liverpool’s SAS have 34 – and that is with both players having endured considerable spells out of action.

If Rodgers can keep them together for the foreseeable future, they could go down in history as the Kop’s greatest double act since Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish.

image: © kuaver

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