Daniel Sturridge is on course to return for Liverpool at Swansea on Monday -- with manager Brendan Rodgers defending the striker against criticism over his England absence.
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Sturridge was named the Premier League player of the month for August, with Rodgers taking the manager’s award, after a 100 per cent start to the season.
The striker has scored in each of Liverpool’s first three Premier League games, all of them won 1-0 to take them to the top of the table. But he missed England’s World Cup qualifiers against Moldova last Friday and Ukraine on Tuesday with a thigh strain.
Sturridge was subsequently criticised over an interview he gave to Liverpool’s website, in which he suggested that it was more important to play for his club than for Roy Hodgson’s side. He moved to defuse the row by clarifying his comments on Twitter, but Rodgers insists the 24-year-old does not deserve flak.
Rodgers said: “He was disappointed to miss out on the England games, and I felt for him. He came here, first and foremost, to do as well as he can for Liverpool, knowing that if he did, his aim was to be an England striker.
“It was the medical experts who made the decision. It wasn’t Daniel Sturridge. He left the game against Manchester United injured, he went away and the great medical staff they have with England deemed him not quite fit enough for the first game [against Moldova]. He returned back and there was a slight improvement, but Roy and his staff have to make a decision: Is he going to be right? Is he going to be available?
“At that stage, it wasn’t. But by the time we play on Monday, it will be nearly two weeks, and for a grade one strain, the medical experts and people who know better than me will tell you that it’s perfectly reasonable to be back playing in that time. He’s been out of the field today and we’ll see how he is over the next 48 hours.
“He wanted to play for England. We’re going on the advice of experts. I don’t know as much as these guys do. England assessed it first and said he probably wasn’t going to be available for their first game. He was then sent back, and they were perfectly happy that he wasn’t going to be available to play. But if he does play on Monday, he shouldn’t be held out as someone who has turned down his country -- because that hasn’t been the case at all.
“It will be nearly a week [since the Ukraine game]. That gives him a chance to play. I think if it was a Saturday game, he probably would have struggled. But that extra bit of time gives him a chance to play. And I would suspect and hope he will be fit. He won’t be 100 per cent fit, but we’ll see.”
Rodgers must make a decision on whether to give debuts at Swansea to his three transfer deadline day signings, with defenders Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori pushing for inclusion in the squad, along with Victor Moses.
Nigeria international Moses, signed on a season’s loan from Chelsea, is a player well known to Rodgers. The Liverpool manager was a youth coach at Stamford Bridge when the winger, now aged 22, arrived on trial from Crystal Palace as a 16-year-old.
Rodgers said: “He’s coming in here to prove himself. And I know he’ll work well, because he’s a good guy. I met him when he was 16. We nearly signed him at Chelsea then. I worked with him. He came to us to train while he was a young player at Crystal Palace, and everything was set up for him to come to Chelsea at the time.
“For whatever reason, it fell through and he stayed. It probably ended up being the right thing for him. He stayed at Palace, got in the first team, got his move and then eventually went there.
"So I knew him from that period when I was a youth coach. I know what I’m getting. He’s got the profile that suits our game in terms of his technique, his quality, and he’s a humble guy.”