Hobbled Sturridge left at home for visit to Basle
England striker has still not recovered from thigh injury suffered on international duty
Liverpool’s Mario Balotelli attends a training session with teammate Steven Gerrard ahead of their Champions League Group B match against FC Basel. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters
The Liverpool striker was not in the travelling party that left John Lennon airport for Switzerland on Tuesday and will now miss a sixth game for his club as a consequence of an injury sustained while training with England.
Mario Balotelli is likely to continue leading the Liverpool line against the Swiss champions in his absence. The manager, Brendan Rodgers, had hoped to have the 25-year-old available for the Merseyside derby against Everton on Saturday, with his team sorely lacking the striker’s pace, movement and finishing over the past three weeks, but the former Chelsea player did not make the bench.
Sturridge may be available for Saturday’s Premier League game at home to West Bromwich Albion but his continued fitness problem raises a dilemma for Rodgers as Roy Hodgson is due to name his next England squad on Thursday.
England face San Marino and Estonia in a European Championship qualifying double-header on 9 and 12 October and Liverpool would be reluctant for Sturridge to take part if he has not returned to full fitness.
There remains considerable anger at Anfield over the circumstances behind Sturridge’s lay-off. The striker had requested a light training session 48 hours after England’s friendly against Norway earlier this month, a routine exercise at Liverpool, but was instructed to take part in a full training session by Hodgson and pulled up injured during it.
Rodgers is on a potential collision course with Hodgson after telling the England manager that Sturridge will not be fit for the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers even if he plays for Liverpool this weekend.
The Liverpool manager said: “Daniel won’t be fit. Whether he is available for the weekend or not, he won’t be fit. We are hoping he can develop over the next 24 hours and train with the team on Thursday and be available for some involvement and be in the squad on Saturday. But if you are talking about players’ availability [for England], then they need to be fit to play and Daniel will not be fit to play.”
Rodgers has not spoken to the England manager since Sturridge’s injury, suggesting a possible deterioration in their relationship, but added: “We have good dialogue and he knows he can call and speak about any of the players. Hopefully he will have found anything I have ever said about the England players working with Liverpool to be helpful.”
Another notable absentee from the Liverpool squad in Switzerland is Mamadou Sakho, who is facing disciplinary action for walking out of Anfield when told he did not feature in Saturday’s match-day squad. Rodgers said the measures taken against the France international would remain “in-house” but claimed he would be absent for the next two to three weeks with a thigh injury sustained in training since the derby.
“He has picked up a slight strain which might mean he is out for a few weeks,” Rodgers said. “It [the walk-out] is not something we expect from our players. We have spoken, he knows the situation and he has apologised. We move on.”
Liverpool return to the scene of one of their embarrassing Champions League exits as Basle’s St Jakob Park was the venue in 2002 for their 3-3 draw – having been held 1-1 at home – which saw them exit the group stages.
Captain Steven Gerrard is the only survivor from that side but it is not an event about which he speaks much considering he suffered the ignominy of being replaced at half-time by Salif Diao of all people with the side 3-0 down.
Gerrard ranked it as one of the worst performances of his career – prompting then manager Gerard Houllier to publicly question whether the then burgeoning 22-year-old was believing his own hype – so no wonder no one has asked him for his recollections.
“I’ve not had that conversation with him,” said midfielder Adam Lallana of Liverpool’s defeat 12 years ago. “It is great we have a role model like Stevie within the group: he’s been there and done it before, lifted the trophy so his experience is invaluable for us.” Guardian Service