Sturridge was a big loss in the December game.
In the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge earlier on in the season, Sturridge was absent and the Reds went on to lose the game 2-1. Though there was some questionable defending, and Liverpool fans will argue that there was the odd bit of bad luck towards them in that encounter, they only had Luis Suarez leading the line on his own, and the lack of Sturridge in the side was telling.
At the turn of the year, Chelsea pressed very high up the pitch and capitalised on the exhausting encounter the Reds had with Manchester City only a couple of days earlier, not to say that's the same reason.
Manager Brendan Rodgers talked about his side resting with the ball when he first came to the club, but instead his side rests in the more conventional way on the ball with a striker holding the ball up a lot more in the final third, and not solely reliant on 'winning the possession'. The striker that usually holds up the play is Sturridge as he brings players into play and can sometimes slow the game down if required.
Chelsea pressed very aggressively during the game earlier on in the season - notably Willian targeting Glen Johnson throughout the game. Jose Mourinho likes all of his side to work hard and do their defensive bit. The problem, especially in the first half of the game for Liverpool was that they didn't keep hold of the ball well enough, and lost it in the middle of the park, or in their own third as demonstrated in the statistics below.
|Poss Won Att 3rd||Played|
|Poss Won Mid 3rd||Played|
These statistics demonstrate just how aggressively Chelsea went at Liverpool on the day, the fact that the Reds were forced to play with the one striker on the day allowed them to isolate Luis Suarez to a degree and forced him to drop a little deeper to get involved in the game.
|Team||Pos||Dispossessed / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Team||Pos||mins / Dispossessed||Apps||Mins|
Though the statistics suggest that Liverpool's number 15 gets dispossessed more than Suarez, having that outlet further up the field to help the Uruguayan is a big thing because it's harder to isolate the two men than the one. Looking at his average per game also suggests that like Suarez, Sturridge is hard to dispossess. It's not just his goals that make him a useful asset to the team, which is why Chelsea's defence will have a big job on their hands to keep him quiet on Sunday if he is fit to face them.