Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson says teammate Daniel Sturridge was hurt by the widespread criticism he faced during what has been an injury-plagued campaign.
The 26-year-old forward made just his fourth Premier League start of the season on Sunday, and opened the scoring in his side’s emphatic 6-0 win away to Aston Villa, nodding in Philippe Coutinho’s cross after sixteen minutes.
However, he is now back in the frame just in time for the side’s Capital One Cup final clash with Manchester Cityon February 28th, with last weekend’s victory also being the first time he, Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have started a match together this season.
Now, the Reds’ skipper feels the return of his friend will enable the team to kick on and progress to the next level.
“I’ve known Studge for years and I am quite close to him,” Henderson said. “I have been with him a lot while he has been out. You have to understand he has been more frustrated than anyone at being out.
“There is a lot gets said about him outside of our group. I know it hurts him and I know it is hard for him to take. He is doing things to try and get back.
“He doesn’t want to be injured. He is more annoyed than anyone that he isn’t playing. But now he is back, he has got a smile on his face and he has been world class.
“He definitely gives us that fear factor back. Any central defender playing against him will be wary. They know how quick he is, how sharp he is with the ball. He can cause anyone problems and I’m sure any centre-half in the world would be worried about coming up against him.”
In all this season, Sturridge has scored five goals from five starts in all competitions, and Liverpool have scored six in each of his last two starts, after thumping Southampton 6-1 in the League Cup in his previous start – the England international helping himself to a brace.
Having used Brazilian Firmino as a false nine in recent weeks, manager Jurgen Klopp now has both Sturridge and Divock Origi – who has recovered from a knee injury – available to select from, with Christian Benteke’s lack of form now disguised with the extensive options available up front.