Liverpool must be open about Daniel Sturridge's fitness - Michael Owen
Liverpool should come clean about the specific nature of Daniel Sturridge's injuries and end "unfair" criticism of him, according to former Reds striker Michael Owen.
Sturridge, 26, made his latest attempt at a comeback in the 2-1 FA Cup fourth-round replay defeat at West Ham on Tuesday after a series of fitness problems.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will consult the England international and the club's medical staff before deciding whether to select him again for Sunday's Premier League trip to Aston Villa.
It had been reported that Sturridge could make a fresh start at another club after criticism of him grew while he was undergoing solo fitness training and with Liverpool unable or unwilling to identify the root of his problems.
The striker's desire to play has been questioned, but Owen said Liverpool could protect him from that by explaining whether he has had muscle injuries or joint pain.
"I wish we knew a bit more," Owen told the Daily Mail. "We all get texts on our phones saying Sturridge has done this or that, but it is all people guessing. I find it hard to have a view until we find out what's wrong.
"The club have not really said. Until we know exactly what problems he has had or has got, it is fuelling a lot of rumours. People are saying things that are potentially unfair.
"I have been injured before and if he is getting muscle injuries then I have every sympathy because they are debilitating. You cannot play on with muscle injuries, they just tear, tear and tear until they erupt. It is the worst thing ever.
"However, if he has joint pain -- an ankle, a knee and a hip -- it can be manageable. It is all about pain thresholds. We have not really been given the information so I do wince a little bit when I see people having a real go."
Sturridge was set to be among 40 players attending an England get-together at St George's Park on Thursday, but while sidelined he has been usurped by Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in the pecking order to feature up front at Euro 2016 alongside captain Wayne Rooney.
Another injury would end Sturridge's hopes of being in Roy Hodgson's squad, Owen believes -- but a run of form before the end of the season could send him back to the front of the queue.
Owen said: "He is running out of time and with a dozen games left, if he got injured between now and the end of the season, you would have to say it is not going to happen.
"If he gets fit, he could be the fly in the ointment in terms of Rooney, Vardy and Kane. He has a lot of class and would shoot right back into the reckoning."
Owen's former Liverpool teammate Robbie Fowler has also defended Sturridge, telling Sport360 that the striker wants to play and should not be sold by the Reds despite the argument that his injury record makes him a waste of money.
"I understand where fans are coming from when they say we may be better off getting him off the wage bill," Fowler said. "But Liverpool is all about trying to get a real decent squad and competition for places, so we need to keep him.
"It's not ideal because he's not playing, but I've been in the same situation before when I've been injured lots of times and I know how he feels -- it's a nightmare. I don't think he wants to be injured, he wants to play and certainly I wouldn't get rid of him. I don't think Liverpool can afford to.
"I think it's important we have someone else there to take the goal-scoring burden off him and at the moment there isn't."
Fowler added that the burden could be shared by Christian Benteke if the £32.5 million signing recovered some confidence, while he rejected the idea that the Belgium international is incompatible with Klopp's style of play.
"We've struggled for goals this season and everyone knows that," he said. "I like Christian Benteke but I think he's struggling for confidence massively. I think when you come to a club like Liverpool the pressure is much bigger than anywhere else and he's just coming to learn that now.
"At times he can be unstoppable but he relies so much on his confidence and when he is, he's one of the best strikers in the league.
"I don't really see this argument that the club needs to change the way it plays to suit him because if you're a top striker, you adapt and it's naive of people to say that things should change for him."
Tom is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. Follow him @writertombell.