Dan’s the man: Sturridge reaction pleases Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp after Bournemouth win
German manager says forward provided the ideal response to being dropped after starring on his return to the first team
Juergen Klopp said Daniel Sturridge provided the ideal response to being dropped after starring on his return to the first team in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Bournemouth.
Sturridge had been left on the bench for Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg victory over Borussia Dortmund, just as he had been for the first leg a week previously against Klopp’s former club.
On both occasions the striker has returned with a goal after being restored to the team, first against Stoke City and then again in Sunday’s victory at Bournemouth that moved Liverpool up to eighth place in the Premier League table.
Sturridge also provided the assist for Roberto Firmino to put Liverpool ahead against Eddie Howe’s side and could have added to the visitors’ tally when he twice struck the woodwork.
With the England player’s long-term future at Anfield in the spotlight following another injury-affected season that has forced him to watch from the sideline for much of the campaign, Sturridge appears to be running into form at exactly the right time, with six goals in eight Premier League starts.
Liverpool manager Klopp said: “Yes (it was the response I wanted), He really is in really good shape, mental-wise and physical-wise it’s really good, and for us so important, because, for example, Roberto Firmino now has an injury problem after he was in perfect shape.”
Divock Origi started both games against Dortmund ahead of Sturridge and with Everton due to visit Anfield for this week’s Merseyside derby, Klopp made it clear nobody can be sure of their place.
“Nobody is undroppable,” said the Reds boss. “I never look at any player and think ‘I can’t leave him out’. As a manager I decide if I play with one, two, three or four strikers.”
Sturridge’s inclusion against Bournemouth was one of 10 changes made by Klopp to the line-up that started against Dortmund, with Firmino the only player to keep his place.
The German manager handed a Premier League debut to goalkeeper Danny Ward and also included youngsters Brad Smith, Connor Randall, Kevin Stewart and Sheyi Ojo in his side.
Firmino’s 41st-minute goal, followed by Sturridge’s header in first-half added time ensured Liverpool gained three points despite Bournemouth’s late rally that brought a reply from Joshua King.
“I had to pick these players because we had no other chance to win,” said Klopp.
“We did not (take a) chance with the same line-up against this highly-athletic team. That’s why we changed it. I’m really pleased for the boys, for all of them, how they played. They were really brilliant.
“I wasn’t really worried. Now it’s easy to say, but I told the boys ‘You can play football, because if it doesn’t work, they can blame me, not you, so try to enjoy the game’, and that’s what they did.”
Klopp added: “I think it was the first Premier League start for Connor Randall, Brad Smith and Danny Ward, So I think that’s really nice what they did. I was not surprised (they performed), but again, (it was) better than I thought it would be.”
Bournemouth manager Howe accepted the south coast club did not do enough to claim a point.
“I wouldn’t say we deserved anything. We failed to put them under enough pressure,” he said.
Sunday’s match saw Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson make his first home appearance since a knee ligament injury seven months ago.
“We just want to protect him and nurse him back,” said Howe. “He still has a lot of work to do but the most important is Callum plays for us longer term.”