Sturridge crucial to Liverpool's top-four fight, says Anfield legend

Steve Nicol believes the fitness of Daniel Sturridge will determine the outcome of Liverpool's season.

Daniel Sturridge was supposed to become Liverpool's star striker this season following the departure of Luis Suarez, but injury has severely limited his impact so far.

In his absence, Brendan Rodgers has tinkered with Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert and Raheem Sterling in the striking role, but none have really been able to plug the void Sturridge's injury left.

Now the 25-year-old is back fit, Liverpool legend Steve Nicol says he must stay injury-free if the Reds are to have any chance of retaining Champions League football next season.

Nicol, who won a European Cup with Liverpool back in 1984, spoke to talkSPORT about the importance of the English striker.

He said: “We saw the difference when Liverpool have Daniel Sturridge up front. He is a real centre forward, his movement, the way he makes space for himself.

“For Liverpool, the key is Daniel Sturridge, no question. He was the star of the show. He not only creates chances and space for himself, but his movement opens it up for others.

“Have we ever seen [Lazar] Markovic making runs through the middle of the park and being so free? That is down to the movement of Sturridge.

“To get in the Champions League spot, into that top four, Daniel Sturridge is 100 per cent the key.”

Sturridge was sensational for Liverpool last season and alongside Suarez formed a partnership that is among the most deadly the Premier League has ever seen.

Injuries this season have meant that the former Chelsea and Manchester City man has only been able to contribute two goals in four Premier League starts, which is surprisingly still more than the one Balotelli has scored in eight starts.

Rodgers' side have been in phenomenal form of late, winning six and drawing two of their last eight games. Sturridge's return to fitness couldn't have come at a better time as he is coming into a side that is really beginning to build some rhythm.

The race for a place in the top-four has intensified even more recently and with only three points separating Arsenal in fourth Arsenal and Liverpool in seventh, Sturrdige is the sort of player who can help a club bridge that gap.

Have something to tell us about this article?

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch