By Michael Hann
LIVERPOOL striker Daniel Sturridge could make his long-awaited return from injury in their League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (9.45pm), manager Brendan Rodgers said.
Former Chelsea striker Sturridge, who scored 25 goals for Liverpool in all competitions last season, has not played for the Merseysiders since August after a series of persistent injuries.
Sturridge travelled to the United States over the Christmas period for treatment on a thigh problem and, having since returned to training with the first team, Rodgers is hoping the England striker will be ready in time to face Chelsea.
“Sturridge trained very, very well yesterday and that was as comfortable as he’s looked,” Rodgers told a news conference on Monday.
“He looked back to normal. We won’t risk it that’s for sure, he’s been out for a long time and we need to make sure he’s ready.”
Raheem Sterling’s stunning individual goal earned Liverpool a 1-1 draw in last week’s semi-final first leg at Anfield.
Premier League leaders Chelsea were dumped out of the FA Cup by League One (third tier) Bradford City on Saturday and Rodgers is wary of a backlash from Jose Mourinho’s side.
“They had a difficult result at the weekend but it doesn’t mean they’re not a dangerous team and an outstanding team,” he said.
“We know it will be a tough game but we are certainly going in with no fear and our strength is in attack.
“There will be great motivation for them to go out there with a Wembley final at stake but I’m sure there will be a wee bit of trepidation.”
With a week to go before the transfer window shuts, Rodgers said he does not expect to make any new signings.
The Liverpool boss also played down suggestions that misfit striker Mario Balotelli, who is yet to score a league goal in 12 appearances since his £16 million move from AC Milan in August, is to leave the club.
“We’ll give Mario every chance,” Rodgers said. “We brought him in to give him every chance to show that he can perform consistently for a team at this level.
“I’ve seen clippings saying this morning (Monday) that’s him over with here and that’s not the case.”