Phil Thompson, legendary former Liverpool captain, thinks Daniel Sturridge‘s body language at the weekend suggested a big internal problem between player and manager Jurgen Klopp.
The striker was dropped for last Thursday’s Europa League semi-final versus Villarreal, and didn’t come off the bench at any point, when much maligned Belgian Cristian Benteke did.
Sturridge started against Swansea, but cut a forlorn figure and there are now questions about whether he’ll start tonight in the Europa League return leg – despite the fact Liverpool need a win after losing away in Spain.
“I’m really worried for Daniel not getting any game time in the first leg and you could see his body language against Swansea was sort of resigned,” Thompson told Sky Sports.
“It’s a big night for his Liverpool career. I think if he doesn’t play then he will have a big question mark over his future and whether he will fit in here.
“You want to have you manager’s trust in you playing big games.”
Thompson understands Klopp’s initial decision on Sturridge, but thought the fact he brought Benteke off the bench last week, and then openly congratulated the former Aston Villa man at the weekend for a goal, spells more problems for the Englishman.
“I can appreciate Klopp starting Roberto Firmino, but I was shocked he didn’t come on with 20 minutes to go, when an away goal looked up for grabs,” Thompson continued.
“Benteke came on at half-time on Sunday and his body language was positive and, with Klopp shaking his hand after he scored, you wonder whether he’s ahead of Daniel in the pecking order.
“It’s very difficult for us looking in and knowing what goes on the training but that may be what is determining how and why he’s not started big games.
“For me, I would have definitely him in the starting line-up for the second leg.”
It’s disappointing that before the biggest match of the season, there’s so much talk of Sturridge’s happiness, when the team should be entirely united and focussed on the task at hand.
On his day, he’s our best forward and maybe even our best player, but Sturridge’s inability to work ferociously for the team’s cause clearly irritates Klopp. If it didn’t, he would have played last week – that much is obvious.
At Anfield though we need goals, and nobody is more capable the Sturridge. He surely must start centrally, given the opportunity to prove his doubters wrong.
Klopp has been coy on whether or not the forward will start, and you can interpret the quotes from the manager’s pre-match press conference as you like…
“I was waiting for this question. He could be, 100 per cent, but I’ve made no decision yet about the line-up,” Klopp told Sky Sports.
“In all these thoughts, Daniel Sturridge is absolutely involved.”