Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has insisted that striker Daniel Sturridge will remain as his number one striker despite £16 million forward Mario Balotelli signing from AC Milan.
Sturridge swapped Chelsea for Anfield in January 2013 and where he was once a bench-warmer in London, the 24 year-old became an instant hit on Merseyside, netting 11 goals in 16 appearance in his first season.
With the loss of former top forward Luis Suarez to Barcelona this summer, the baton to lead the Reds front line had initially been passed on to Sturridge and despite Rodgers drafting in Balotelli, he still sees the England International as his favoured goalscorer.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, the Northern Irishman said: “The dynamics between players are important. But I don’t worry because if you are a top player with a top mind, you want other top players.
“If you are worried about what someone else can come in and do then... If you are a top player and you are looking at another top player coming in, you will be thinking, ‘he can help us’.
“If you are a top player with a top mentality, you respond to the competition.
“I also need flexibility and also if you look at Daniel’s injury record, he has missed a number of weeks through being injured. I need to ensure I've got the replacements if they are not on the pitch at the same time.
“I've spoken to Daniel and just said about how important he is to the team.
“The confidence I have in him has been shown in his performances and goals - 36 in 50. You are not doing that if you’re not happy, happy with life and happy with your football.
“I have said repeatedly that Daniel is a top talent, but we need to have more than one top talent in here. But he is a big player for us and will remain so.”
Stick with Sturridge
There is not a shed of doubt in my mind that any football fan believes that Rodgers should abandon Sturridge in favour of Balotelli.
Despite only being at the club for less than two seasons, Sturridge has been prolific in front of goal, having raced to 36 goals already in 50 games. That is the second highest tally after half a century of games in the history of the club, surpassing three Liverpool legends in Robbie Fowler, Kenny Dalglish and Fernando Torres.
Considering Fowler has the nickname 'God' and Dalglish dubbed 'King' along with surpassing other legends such as LFC all time top goalscorer Ian Rush, it highlights how important Sturridge is to the Reds.
He proved his significance to the five time European Champions again when netted for Liverpool on their opening Premier League fixture against away side Southampton, which ensured his side snatched three points off the South East club.
Compare that to Balotelli in when playing in England - he represented Manchester City 80 times in all competitions and found the net 30 times.
Nonetheless, just because Sturridge is who Rodgers regards most highly up top at Anfield, it does not mean he cannot form a partnership with the new-coming arrival.
We saw last season the importance of Sturridge and Sterling, with the former playing the sidekick role in that partnership. Balotelli will likely take over that role now his new team-mate has been promoted, however he will be crucial if Liverpool are to challenge for the title.
I'm intrigued how Rodgers will line up with the pair. Last season, we saw Sturridge and Suarez playing wide when needing two, however Balotelli is an out-and-out number nine, much like the former Chelsea man.
I predict that Liverpool could reverse to a 4-1-2-1-2 formation instead of the 4-3-3 which was used a large percentage of time last season that would likely see Phillippe Coutinho play a slightly deeper role and Raheem Sterling off the strikers. However it would also feature a strike partnership of Sturridge and Balotelli - that is frightening for to think about for defenders and more importantly for managers.
Having two top class strikers would allow Rodgers to give opposing managers problems - who do defenders target out of the pair? Further, if centre backs target both forwards it would allow Sterling a lot of freedom in front of him and drive at defences, along with letting Coutinho play further up the pitch.
As Rodgers stated, Sturridge is also injury prone and was sidelined for a chunk of last season. If the case again, Balotelli would likely be called on to lead the Liverpool line and he is a worthy candidate.
'Super Mario' done this at AC Milan and does it every time he represents his country as he mostly plays with no strike partner - Balotelli is intelligent as well as a goalscorer so he could feed players such as Sterling as well as find the net.
If anything, due to his self-belief attitude, the former Inter Milan man performs better like this. He is often Italy's man of the match and seems to thrive off the team playing to feed him up top, therefore if Sturridge is ever sidelined, he could be more than capable to lead the Liverpool line.
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