Rodgers warns Reds fans

LONDON - Brendan Rodgers has described Daniel Sturridge’s recovery as “critical” for Liverpool but the manager warned the striker needs time to recapture last season’s devastating form following a spate of injuries.

Sturridge is back in training at Melwood after rehabilitation work in the United States although a first-team return is not imminent.

Rodgers, who is reluctant to put a timescale on the striker’s comeback given his medical history, has recalled Jordon Ibe from a successful loan spell at Derby County to increase his attacking options as Sturridge approaches full fitness.

The England international scored 21 goals in Liverpool’s title challenge last season but, while enthused about his potential impact on the side when fit, Rodgers insisted it is unrealistic to expect the 25-year-old to flourish immediately.

Sturridge has missed over four months with a calf and two thigh injuries. His last appearance for Liverpool came in the 3-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on 31 August.

“People have to be more realistic, it will take him time,” cautioned Rodgers, who has recalled Ibe after the 19-year-old scored five goals in 24 appearances for Derby.

“First he has to get fit generally, and fortunately he is a naturally fit player as he proved last season when he came back without much of a pre-season and did very well. But then there is match fitness, football fitness, and that will take a wee bit of time. Just having him on the field to begin with will be critical to the team because I think his threat is obvious. It’s the only way we will get him back up to speed.”

Adam Lallana and Glen Johnson, however, are close to returning following thigh and groin injuries respectively and could be involved at Aston Villa today.

Lallana was expected to be sidelined until February but has recovered quickly, although Steven Gerrard is doubtful with a tight hamstring that forced his withdrawal at Sunderland last weekend.

Liverpool’s chief executive, Ian Ayre, has confirmed Gerrard could return on loan once he moves to LA Galaxy.

The Liverpool captain will end his 26-year association with the club this summer when he departs to the MLS but Ayre has not ruled out the prospect of Gerrard playing for Rodgers’s team again.

“The fact that he’s leaving at the end of the season doesn’t mean it’s the last we’ll see of him at Liverpool,” said the chief executive.

“What that means, the details aren’t known yet, but we will keep a regular dialogue with him and I hope we will see him here again in the long term.”

Asked if that could mean a return on loan next January, Ayre said: “It’s conceivable. It happens a lot in MLS and it’s something we talked to Steven and his representatives about. You can’t have someone who has so much of the club’s DNA in them and just expect that it will go away.” – The Guardian

Today (5pm unless stated)

Swansea v Chelsea, QPR v Man U, Leicester v Stoke, Burnley v Crystal Palace, Aston Villa v Liverpool, Tottenham v Sunderland, Newcastle v Southampton (7:30pm).

Tomorrow

West Ham v Hull (3:30pm), Man City v Arsenal (6pm)

Monday

Everton v West Bromwich (10pm)

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