Adam Lallana believes that Daniel Sturridge's return can be the X-Factor behind Liverpool finishing in the top four this season.
Since his £23 million move from Southampton this summer, Lallana has yet to play alongside his international team-mate, with Sturridge being out injured since early September.
In the former Chelsea man's absence, the Reds have struggled to score goals and have just 22 to their name after 18 matches. Sturridge has been in Boston over the Christmas period, working with Boston Red Sox's medical staff to speed up his recovery and is hoping to return to action in the middle of January.
And Lallana feels that the return of the striker is coming at the right time as Liverpool push for another Champions League finish this campaign.
"I've not had the privilege to play with Studge in a Liverpool shirt yet because of my injury at the start of the season and then his injury,” Lallana told the Liverpool Echo.
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"I've not had the privilege to play with Studge in a Liverpool shirt yet because of my injury at the start of the season and then his injury"
“But I've played with him for England and I know what a big asset he is to the club.
“I speak to Studge and he's working really hard to get back. Hopefully we'll see him back playing early in the new year. It will be like a new signing for us.
“It's not going to be a carbon copy of Liverpool last season because Luis Suarez isn't here and he's a sensational player.
“If you take him out of any team you'll miss him. But it's the same with Studge. Having him back will lift everyone.
“I don’t see why we can’t still make the top four.”
There's no hiding that the Reds have been under-fire this campaign, when their tally is compared with the last one. At the same point a year ago, Liverpool were fourth in the top flight with 36 points and had scored a superb 43 goals.
Fast forward 12 months and Brendan Rodgers's side are rooted to 10th on a miserable 25 points and have netted just 22 goals in 18 games. Luis Suarez struck 31 Premier League goals last season and despite him moving to Barcelona in the summer, Kopites still believed they could repeat their success if Sturridge remained at the club.
The 25-year-old was the league's second highest score with 21 and that was playing second-fiddle to the Uruguayan and many believed with Sturridge taking main responsibility up-top he could go close to that tally.
Liverpool have had to make-do with Mario Balotelli leading the front-line for the most part. Since his £16 million move from AC Milan, he's netted just twice and put in a number of performances that have been well below average.
The Italian has not been suited to the fast, counter-attacking football that Rodgers is encouraging nor has he tried to adapt. Rickie Lambert too has lead the forward-line at Anfield on occasions however he was brought to be a 'Plan B' and too clearly does not suit.
The latest system of 3-4-2-1 set in place by the Northern Irishman has been much better of late and should very much suit the returning Sturridge. Raheem Sterling has played as a solo striker and despite not being a natural number nine, he's settled well in the role and been much more of a threat.
Last campaign, Sturridge had an excellent rapport with Philippe Coutinho and the Brazilian has missed playing alongside the striker and has struggled when Balotelli has been up-top.
Coutinho, however has been much more affective with Sterling up-front and should be even better when Sturridge returns. The same can be said for Lallana. He loves making things happen for strikers and the two have combined a number of time when on England duty.
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