Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool would have finished in the top four and won a trophy last season had Daniel Sturridge not been injured.
Rodgers is under increasing pressure at Liverpool after a disappointing start to the season coupled with last season’s failure to reclaim a place in the Champions League.
Sturridge returned to the Liverpool starting line-up during Saturday’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa and his importance to the Reds was underlined by a brilliant double strike – the first a left-footed volley and the second a well-crafted pass and move.
To underline the England striker’s importance to the club, Liverpool have won less than half their Premier League games played without Sturridge since he joined the club two and a half years ago.
And Rodgers agreed it cost Liverpool a Champions League place and a cup. “Yes. Because he is in that elite band of player that we’ve seen here.
“We’ve seen here the brand of football we can create when we have that talent available. He played a massive part in that, so if he stays fit and others come into the reckoning we can piece together an exciting team again. Those players make the difference.”
For Rodgers, losing Sturridge so soon after the sale of Luis Suarez is the equivalent of Barcelona being deprived of Lionel Messi and Suarez for a year, or Real Madrid being expected to perform to the same levels without Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
“We haven’t scored three goals since he (Sturridge) last started a game,” said Rodgers.
“He gives you a big opportunity to win games and compete at the top end of the table. He is a fantastic talent and now the job is hopefully he can stay fit. It’s not rocket science.”
Since Sturridge joined Liverpool in January 2013, his side has won 61% of the fixtures in which he has played. In fact, in his 57 league appearances he has been on the losing side just eight times.