Sturridge close to Liverpool return
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge could be in line to make his long-awaited return to action in Saturday’s Premier League game against West Ham.
Sturridge has been out since suffering a thigh injury on international duty last September, before a thigh problem ruined his hopes of a return and was declared unfit to play any role in Liverpool's Capital One Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Tuesday night.
The Reds striker has been training with his team-mates this week, but Rodgers will not decide whether the 25-year-old will take any part in the game until 24 hours before kick-off.
"He has looked outstanding in training, but we will give him another day (before deciding whether to play him)," the Reds boss told a press conference.
"I will have a chat with him (on Friday) and overview the week, how everything has gone, but in my brief conversation with him (on Thursday) I can tell he is happy and feeling very strong in his own body. At this moment, he looks in top-class condition."
When asked whether Sturridge's absence was one of the main reasons why the Reds were not in the top four, Rodgers replied: "No question. I think it's had a huge impact on our season.
"You can trace that back to the beginning of the season when we played one of our early games against Tottenham. You saw then he was the reference point for the team.
"From that point on, the team have struggled but thankfully we have been getting better and better all the time and when you put Daniel in he shines a different light on to that."
Sturridge's return comes on a day when Mario Balotelli's agent has insisted his client will remain at Liverpool even though he has been frozen out of the first team plans of boss Brendan Rodgers.
"In Liverpool he hasn't had the space he needs: if you can't make things go the way you want, you stay out of the team," said agent Mino Raiola.
"The plan is for him to continue at Anfield. I saw him on Monday and told him: 'You have a four-year contract and I will not send you away. Eiether you leave Liverpool at €60-70m or you will die there'. It's the first time I have made a speech like that to a player."