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Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in action against Everton.

Return of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho gives Jurgen Klopp bullets to fire

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This time two years ago, Liverpool had the strongest attack in the Premier League.

Spearheaded by Luis Suarez, along with the worthy support of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling, the Reds went on a rampage during the 2013/14 season. They went from possible top-four candidates to genuine title contenders over the course of the campaign and finished the season only two points behind Manchester City in second.

Liverpool's devastating counter-attacks left opponents helpless. They scored five at home to Arsenal, five away at Tottenham Hotspur and finished the season having racked up 103 goals.

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Lack of goals

Whereas Kopites once flooded through the turnstiles with excitement and optimism, the past one-and-a-half years have been contrastingly different.

Liverpool registered a lacklustre 52 league goals in the 2014/15 season. The failure to replace Suarez had its repercussions with Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini all failing to fire in front of goal, and Sterling was left to steward a position he was far from accustomed to.

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This season has not been much different. Supporters called for Brendan Rodgers and club owners Fenway Sports Group to put their money where their mouth is and sign a striker who'd already forged a stellar reputation during the summer transfer window.

Christian Benteke was their answer, with Liverpool meeting his £32.5 million buy-out clause from Aston Villa.

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However, he's failed to prove his stock at Anfield having struggled to adapt and netted just seven goals in all competitions.

It's not just Benteke who's not been up to standard where it counts - in fact, the Belgium international is Liverpool's top scorer despite the criticism he's faced.

Leicester City v Liverpool - Premier League

Klopp's lack of resources

Injuries to the likes of Coutinho, Sturridge and Divock Origi have not helped Jurgen Klopp's mission to salvage the Reds' disappointing start to the campaign after succeeding Rodgers in October.

The German's resources have been significantly strung out in his four months in the Anfield hotseat, especially over the busy periods of December and January.

Benteke's poor form meant that Roberto Firmino was given the responsibility as playing as a false number nine, a role that he adapted to gamely but jeopardised his best abilities in a more natural, deeper role.

Klopp has rarely had Sturridge at his deployment on Merseyside. The England international has suffered a series of injuries that's forced him on the sidelines for the most part of the ex-Borussia Dortmund managers reign and for the past 18 months for that matter.

When Sturridge made a brief return in December, he showed his new boss what he's capable of. The 26-year-old grabbed a superb brace in Liverpool's 6-1 demolition of Southampton in the League Cup quarter-final.

The five-time European Cup winners went one down within the opening stages of the match, but a quick-fire double from Sturridge turned the tides on the south coast and swung momentum in Liverpool's favour.

Return of trio

Klopp's attacking options were distinctly limited in December and January. Sturridge, Coutinho and Origi all were forced to sit helplessly and watch their side beaten by Manchester United, Watford and West Ham United throughout.

However, all three returned in last week's FA Cup fourth-round replay against West Ham. They could not send Liverpool into the last 16 but they were all lively and Coutinho's intelligent free-kick showed how much Liverpool have been missing intelligence, creativity and spark in his absence.

Sturridge and Coutinho formed a formidable partnership when the Reds came up agonisingly short of winning the title a few years ago. Coutinho thrives off the movement Sturridge offers ahead and the playmaker is able to utilise his teammates pace.

FBL-ENG-FACUP-WEST HAM-LIVERPOOL

The former Inter Milan playmaker was a diamond in the rough last term. Despite Liverpool finishing a miserable sixth, Coutinho sparkled and earned himself a place in the PFA Team of the Year.

Sturridge's goalscoring record since he moved to Anfield from Chelsea in 2013 is impeccable. Although he's had his fair share of injury setbacks, he's scored 38 goals from just 61 games for the Reds and has a better goals-per-game average than Liverpool legends Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen.

He is a defender's nightmare to play against; he possesses assets of rapid pace, quick feet and the ability to score from half-a-chance.

Villa performance

Klopp named the pair in his starting XI against Aston Villa on Sunday. It was a statement of intent from the 48-year-old, who fielded arguably his strongest team in the final third available along with Firmino.

It took the duo just 16 minutes to reignite their partnership. Coutinho picked up the ball on the left-wing and whipped a precise ball that Sturridge did not need to jump for and headed past Mark Bunn for the Reds' first of six goals in the Midlands.

Coutinho continued to menace Remi Garde's rearguard before being replaced midway through the second-half and Sturridge could have doubled his tally but for a superb stop from Bunn.

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League

Origi also made his presence felt by coming off the bench and scoring after just 37 seconds. Still The former Lille man still needs fine-tuning being just 20-years-old but his raw pace is a danger to any tired legs in the closing stages of a match.

Coutinho has netted five goals this season from 18 league matches and Sturridge the same amount from eight games in all competitions and both of their tallies look sure to saturate significantly before the end of the season.

Bullets to fire 

The trio have returned at just the right time. Whereas Klopp's attacking options previously looked thin on the ground, he now possesses a rifle with serious ammunition loaded. Liverpool will no longer be firing blanks and Sunday's walk-over win against Villa was a warning shot to any upcoming opponent.

Liverpool meet Manchester City in the League Cup final at the end of the month.

With Klopp's two main protagonists back to fitness, it means that Vincent Kompany and co. will have a much stiffer task at hand than first imagined as the Reds look to win their first major trophy since they won the same competition four years ago.

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Topics:
Daniel Sturridge
Divock Origi
Premier League
Philippe Coutinho
Liverpool
Football
Steven Gerrard

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