Phil Thompson believes Liverpool's Europa League tie against Villarreal will have massive repercussions for Daniel Sturridge's future at the club.
The England international was infamously left on the bench for the entirety of the first leg, which the Reds lost 1-0. Even Christian Benteke was preferred to Sturridge, coming on with just minutes to spare and leaving fans and pundits baffled.
His exclusion stoked the rumour that the relationship between Sturridge and manager Jurgen Klopp is far from perfect. The pair are widely believed to have gotten off on the wrong foot from the moment the German arrived in October.
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Sturridge was given a full 90 minutes against Swansea City the following Sunday, but he put in a drab performance and made a beeline for the tunnel after the final whistle even though his team-mates were applauding the travelling Liverpool supporters.
"I think if he doesn't play then he will have a big question mark over his future and whether he will fit in here."
And Thompson believes whether Sturridge plays in the return leg at Anfield tonight or not will be rather telling as we head towards the summer transfer window. The Sky Sports pundit thinks another spell on the bench could be taken to mean he has no place in Klopp's long-term plans.
He told Sky Sports: "I'm really worried for Daniel not getting any game time in the first leg and you could see his body language against Swansea was sort of resigned.
"It's a big night for his Liverpool career. I think if he doesn't play then he will have a big question mark over his future and whether he will fit in here. You want to have you manager's trust in you playing big games."
Klopp told reporters on the night that he had opted for Roberto Firmino in a one-striker system because he wanted more "balance". But fans on Twitter were stunned that Klopp did not give Sturridge at least 20 minutes to try and breach Villarreal's defence, especially as it seemed they were there for the taking.
Thompson says he appreciates that Firmino was a wise choice from the former Borussia Dortmund manager but, like the fans on Twitter, was incredulous when Sturridge did not emerge for the final portion of the game.
He added: "I can appreciate Klopp starting Roberto Firmino, but I was shocked he didn't come on with 20 minutes to go, when an away goal looked up for grabs.
"For me, I would have definitely him in the starting line-up for the second leg."
"Benteke came on at half-time on Sunday and his body language was positive and, with Klopp shaking his hand after he scored, you wonder whether he's ahead of Daniel in the pecking order.
"It's very difficult for us looking in and knowing what goes on in training but that may be what is determining how and why he's not started big games. For me, I would have definitely him in the starting line-up for the second leg."
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