Steven Gerrard: Liverpool need Daniel Sturridge scoring goals if they are to save season
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admits the return of striker Daniel Sturridge is vital to the club's fortunes this season.
The England international returned to full training last week and is edging closer to competitive action after undergoing a hip operation in May.
However, despite manager Brendan Rodgers claiming the 26-year-old looks the fittest he has for 18 months he is taking a cautious approach.
But after scoring just three times in their opening five matches, the Reds are desperately short of goals and Sturridge's comeback cannot come soon enough for Gerrard.
"I think it's vital Daniel Sturridge is back playing and firing as soon as possible," Gerrard, now playing in Major League Soccer with LA Galaxy, told Radio City.
"I think the key is the partnership he forms with (Christian) Benteke because if they click together there's plenty more big games to finish high up in the league."
The ongoing absence of Gerrard's successor Jordan Henderson has contributed to the problems as in the three matches he has missed the team have earned just one point, in a goalless draw at Arsenal.
Henderson has this week been sent to see American orthopaedic specialist Dr James Cozzarelli in an attempt to get to the root of a troublesome heel injury.
Liverpool have missed his dynamism and particularly his forward running but with no date set for his return, Rodgers has to find a way of rejuvenating his midfield as the triumvirate of James Milner, Emre Can and Lucas Leiva struggled in the defeats against West Ham and Manchester United.
The loss at Old Trafford was an insipid performance, as without their most influential player, the suspended Philippe Coutinho, they struggled to create much.
Gerrard believes, however, with Sturridge, Henderson and Coutinho in the same team Liverpool will be a different prospect.
"Henderson has been a big miss and Coutinho's suspension was a hammer blow, so I think they're three big players," Gerrard said.
"If you get those three into the team we will be fine."
Adam Lallana has returned to training after a thigh injury, having not featured since August 17, with midfielder Joe Allen set to be eased back into things this week after a hamstring problem which has sidelined him since pre-season.
Winger Jordon Ibe has confirmed his commitment to England.
The London-born 19-year-old is also eligible for Nigeria, but having progressed through youth teams to make his England Under-21 debut earlier this month he wants to continue that pathway.
"It was my choice and it feels the right choice for me," he told liverpoolfc.com.
"I was born here and have played in the younger age groups. I want to take it up to the first team one day."