Much to Liverpool’s discontent, it looks like Divock Origi’s season has abruptly come to an end after being carried off on a stretcher in the Reds’ 4-0 win against Everton on Wednesday evening.
The Belgium international was the victim of a nasty challenge from Ramiro Funes Mori five minutes into the second, with the Argentine rightly seeing red for his reckless tackle.
Origi has been diagnosed with ligament damage and, although Jurgen Klopp has not ruled out a return for the former Lille man this term, will likely not be risked given the extent of his injury and with the European Championship’s looming this summer.
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The 21-year-old has blossomed prolifically over the past few months, transforming himself from a fringe player into Klopp's chief striker, and his first-half header against Everton marked his fifth goal in as many matches.
With Liverpool left chasing a lost cause in the Premier League, Klopp has likely decided to prioritise the Europa League. The Merseyside outfit have marched into the semi-finals of the competition and they face a tough first leg away at Villarreal next Thursday.
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With Christian Benteke and Danny Ings also sidelined, Daniel Sturridge is Liverpool’s only fit, recognised striker and will have a huge part to play for the remainder of the campaign.
He’ll be hoping to gain his spot back as Liverpool’s principal forward and to stamp a huge impression on his manager.
The ex-Chelsea man has an impeccable goalscoring record at Anfield. His strike against Everton was his 50th in just 87 matches for the Reds, racing to the landmark faster than the likes of Luis Suarez, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen.
His quick feet, rapid pace and ability to score from half chances make him an absolute nightmare for opponents to play against.
Sturridge has had his injury problems over the past few years but, when he’s fit, he is a force to be reckoned with. The England international has registered ten goals from just 21 appearances this campaign, with three of those coming in his last four games.
The 26-year-old was given the nod over Origi when Liverpool travelled to Bournemouth last Sunday. He was part of a weakened side Klopp fielded on the south coast but his class proved the difference between the two sides. His spontaneous back heel forced a save out of Artur Boruc, which Roberto Firmino followed up with an easy tap in before Sturridge rose to meet Jordon Ibe’s header and seal the points for Liverpool on the stroke of half-time.
There’s no doubt that Sturridge’s ability in front of goal is up there with the best in the world; however, it’s his attitude that could prove his downfall under Klopp.
Following the Bournemouth match, the German insisted that Sturridge was droppable, despite his match-winning performance.
Klopp said: "He's a brilliant player. (But) this is a game with 11 players. And we come to this.
And you are interested in one player? Each player had influence. I understand it as a team game. I enjoyed the game of Daniel Sturridge.
"We have a football game and you want to talk about one player at the first moment. That's not the role I like. He was very good, but if you are not interested in the game..."
The biggest criticism surrounding the Birmingham-native is that he can be selfish and look after number one. Granted, every striker should strive for as many goals as possible and be greedy at times, but too often he shoots at goal instead of choosing the better option and laying off a teammate.
Klopp promotes his side to have no egos in it and that everyone should play for the good of the team, whether it is Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho or Simon Mignolet scoring the goals.
Chasing Europa League glory
Thursday’s fixture against Villarreal will indeed be a gruelling one. The Spanish outfit have enjoyed a fine season domestically – they sit fourth in La Liga and look almost certain to claim the final Champions League spot.
They’ve made Estadio El Madrigal a fortress this term. They’ve beat league challengers Athletico Madrid and Real Madrid on home soil, as well as holding leaders Barcelona to a 2-2 draw and have lost at home just twice all season.
Chances could come thin and far between for the Reds at Villarreal. If a good opportunity does fall to Sturridge, it is vital he picks the right decision, which could be to set his teammate up instead of going for glory himself.
It could well be a long night for Liverpool in Spain. Klopp will likely be pleased to return to Merseyside with a goalless draw and plan for the reverse leg at Anfield.
Origi was applauded for his work-rate when the Reds travelled to Dortmund in the first leg of the quarter-finals. He ran himself legless to press down the ball from the front and got himself on the scoresheet to ensure the Reds left Germany with a precious away goal.
Sturridge’s injury problems have been well-documented throughout his career whilst at Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool. From hip to calf, hamstring to groin, he’s had them all which has disrupted his career from becoming arguably one of the modern greats.
Clearly, Sturridge is prone to injury and Klopp’s gegenpressing could quite easily become sidelined once again by running himself ragged from the first until the final whistle. It could be a test of character rather than ability in Spain and it will be a different situation for him than he’s used to.
Sturridge’s ability to adapt under Klopp’s tactics is the biggest question mark that surrounds him and is seemingly the reason Origi leapfrogged him in the pecking order.
There’s no doubt that his goalscoring ability is of the very highest calibre. If he can prove to his boss that he’s willing to adjust, he’ll make it very difficult for Origi to win his place back upon return.
Can Liverpool win the Europa League? Have your say in the comment box below