Football: Sturridge in 'best shape'

Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge shooting against Wigan in a friendly. The England international is a key part of manager Jurgen Klopp's plans for the new season.
Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge shooting against Wigan in a friendly. The England international is a key part of manager Jurgen Klopp's plans for the new season.PHOTO: REUTERS

Klopp hopes to get more from injury-ravaged forward, insists old faces play key role in his plans

HONG KONG • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp plans to unleash an injury-free Daniel Sturridge in the new season - with the England striker back in training fully fit and focused.

"It's the best condition he has been in since I have been here," Klopp said in Hong Kong yesterday, ahead of his second full campaign as the English football club's manager.

Sturridge has been troubled by a spate of injuries since joining the Reds from Premier League rivals Chelsea in 2013 and hip problems restricted his impact to just seven goals from 27 appearances last season.

The 27-year-old was recently linked with a big-money move to China, but Klopp insisted he was going nowhere, backing him to return to the kind of form that almost helped bring Liverpool a league title in his first season on Merseyside.

"He has been part of a full pre-season so far, so that is very positive," Klopp said before his side face Crystal Palace at Hong Kong Stadium today in the Premier League Asia Trophy, which also involves Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion.

"It has been quite intense what we have done and he has pretty much been part of each session so that is good. He is in good physical shape."

Amid fanfare over the arrival of Mohamed Salah, signed from Roma last month for a club-record £36.9 million (S$65.71 million), Klopp said his primary focus was on seeing Liverpool improve on last season's fourth-place finish.

"Sometimes (the news) is all about bringing in new players but the main thing is how do we improve the players we had last season," said the German, who is playing a waiting game on key transfer targets Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk.

"The good thing is we did not lose any player that we want and I expect a lot of improvement from the players we have."

Salah is one of two new signings Liverpool have brought with them to Hong Kong.

The Egypt international has hit the ground running with the Reds, scoring in his first friendly against Wigan last week, while striker Dominic Solanke will also be looking to impress his new manager following the 19-year-old's free transfer from Chelsea.

But Klopp refused to be drawn on Leipzig midfielder Keita or Southampton defender van Dijk.

"It is what it is and the transfer market is open until the 31st (of August)," said Klopp, whose team kick off their Premier League campaign at Watford on Aug 12.

"I am not easy to frustrate. It's the transfer market - sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't. I have all the players I want, until now. I'm still relaxed."

Liverpool arrived in Hong Kong on Monday to a deluge of rain and flood warnings.

"You have to make the best of the circumstances," said the manager.

"We come from England so we are used to a little bit of rain but yesterday was a little bit too much."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'Sturridge in 'best shape''. Print Edition | Subscribe