How Liverpool’s most unlikely source might hold the key to their title challenge

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Dream Team FC
How Liverpool’s most unlikely source might hold the key to their title challenge

Liverpool have sent shock waves around the rest of the Premier League so far this summer.

The Reds have spent nearly double their closest rivals and a serious title challenge surely has to materialise as a bare minimum as a result.

But despite the influx of new arrivals, could a returning face hold the key to their fortunes this season?

SIGN UP NOW – It’s time to pick your fantasy football team for the new season Klopp knows a title challenge is requiredAP:Associated Press

Here’s two arguments which I’m willing to either debunk or trivialise; one is that Daniel Sturridge might as well be made of crisps, the other is that pre-season fixtures are irrelevant.

Sturridge’s Liverpool career looked all but dead and buried in January after the club shipped him out to West Brom on loan.

PA:Press Association Warming that bench[/caption]

To say his spell at the Hawthorns perfectly surmised his last four or five years – injury plagued to the extent that fans started to question his existence altogether – is an understatement.

But there’s been nothing existential about his very subtle return to Anfield this summer.

Under the radar Sturridge has quietly gone about building up his fitness and impressing Jurgen Klopp.

Getty - Contributor A new man?[/caption]

He knows better than most that Roberto Firmino is Klopp’s ideal number nine to lead the attacking line, instigating the press and allowing Sadio Mane and Mo Salah to shine.

But a new role might be in the offing – both on and off the pitch.

In pre-season we have seen a more withdrawn Sturridge, dropping deeper and showcasing his creativity instead of running in behind.

The tactical switch makes sense for both parties as Sturridge has lost a yard of pace since his devastating goalscoring days whilst Mane and Salah can assume those responsibilities.

PA:Empics Sport An all too familiar sight[/caption]

The 28-year-old has been amongst the goals too, with his strike against Man United in Michigan on Saturday night his fourth in pre-season this summer.

Sturridge’s new found versatility is, as Klopp intimated, like a new signing.

But it has been his role in helping one of the Reds’ big new summer acquisitions that could prove even more pivotal for Liverpool.

Naby Keita arrives in England as one of the best players in Germany in the last two seasons but, like any Premier League new boy, will need time to adjust to life in England.

The Naby Keita – Daniel Sturridge bond is boss.

— Anfield Express (@AnfieldExpress) July 21, 2018

Sturridge has recognised that and essentially taken their new midfield general under his wing.

The duo have linked up well in pre-season fixtures and also forged a friendship off the field, with Keita stationed next to the striker in the Reds’ dressing room.

Despite a language barrier between the two there’s been an instant connection, with Sturridge blown away by the midfielder’s qualities.

Getty Images - Getty Sturridge and Keita have brought the best out of each other in pre-season[/caption]

“I love that guy. I’m surprised how good he is actually, if I’m honest. I knew he was good but I don’t watch German football too often,” he told Liverpool’s official website.

“I haven’t seen a midfielder like him for a while, he is something different. It’s crazy.

“The things he can do with the ball – he can defend, he can pass, he can dribble, he is fast, he is strong. He has got everything.”

Quite the endorsement.

Reuters Keita could take Liverpool to the next level[/caption]

Sturridge is now one of the elder statesmen in the Anfield dressing room and he has wasted no time in making others feel like home.

His relationship with Keita is pivotal to Liverpool’s hopes, with the sooner the midfielder settling in the better.

Why Keita could be a Dream Team favourite this season

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Sturridge’s new role is intriguing, but even if his playing time is reduced his presence is being felt.

Brought in from the cold to stoke the fires of a title challenge.

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