Having endured a tumultuous period of injuries within his attacking ranks, Jurgen Klopp is relieved to now be able to call upon a number of top-level options.
Daniel Sturridge made his first appearance of 2016 in Tuesday night’s 2-1 FA Cup fourth-round replay defeat to West Ham United, and despite failing to score, he performed promisingly.
The return of Sturridge adds another high-quality player to Klopp’s attacking selection, and after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the German is relishing the prospect of fielding Sturridge alongside the likes of Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke.
Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, Klopp hailed the “big step” Sturridge has made in his recovery.
“He played about 70 minutes [against West Ham], so he had a normal recovery after,” he explained.
“He feels good, I heard nothing else.
“We have to think about how we can manage the minutes, but he took a big step in the last week of course”
Sturridge joined Benteke in a heavily attacking lineup in the second half at the Boleyn Ground, but Liverpool’s forward charge was undermined by some poor finishing from the Belgian.
Despite this, Klopp remained positive as to Benteke’s form.
“I can do a lot of things, but in the end the last and most important help comes from the player himself,” he continued.
“I saw really good signs against West Ham. Having this number of opportunities is a good sign. But it’s not too easy.
“I talked to him, a few times, gave him some advice as a human being, as a coach.
“He’s really trying to come back in an easy moment.”
Klopp hinted that Benteke would not start against his former club, Aston Villa, on Sunday, however, protesting that “it’s not because of personal histories.”
But the German remains confident that Sturridge and Benteke can perform together, citing the No. 15’s display alongside Divock Origi in December’s 6-1 win away to Southampton in the League Cup as evidence.
More likely to partner Sturridge up front against the Villans is the in-form Roberto Firmino, who has enjoyed a remarkable upturn in fortunes following Klopp’s arrival in October.
Since switching to a centre-forward role under Klopp, the Brazilian has scored six goals and assisted on five in 10 appearances.
Having been rested for the trip to east London on Tuesday night, Firmino is set to return at Villa Park, and Klopp acknowledged how he was “much more stable” compared to in October.
“He’s a good player, there’s no doubt about this,” he said.
“A few weeks ago we had no strikers, now we have four strikers.
“[But] it’s not about satisfying a single player. We have to find a stable formation.
“Roberto is much more stable, with much more consistency in his performances then when I came here.
“It’s good for all of us.”
Klopp is facing the prospect of fielding Firmino, Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho—Liverpool’s three finest attackers—together for the first time in his Merseyside reign.
Against a beleaguered Villa defence, this top-class trio could enjoy a bright afternoon.
KLOPP’S PRE-VILLA PRESSER