FA Cup West Ham v Liverpool: Jurgen Klopp optimistic over Daniel Sturridge
Jurgen hopes fitness concerns are in past as striker gears up for return against Hammers
Daniel Sturridge will return to action at Upton Park tonight, trying to prove to Liverpool once again that he is fit enough to be relied upon.
Sturridge's injuries have hung over Liverpool all season, with Jurgen Klopp's forthright comments that the striker must play through the pain barrier having alienated the player.
Sturridge's last appearance for Liverpool was two months ago, and he has only started four games this season. But he will play some part in the FA Cup fourth-round replay against West Ham United this evening, as may Philippe Coutinho after a one-month lay-off of his own.
Klopp spoke very positively about Sturridge yesterday. The Liverpool manager said the player had been training well since recovering from his hamstring injury and that everyone now hoped he was free from his long-standing injury problems.
"I think everyone hopes this, Daniel hopes it, I hope it," Klopp said.
"That is absolutely normal, what we tried to do after the last injury. That is what we have to do. It always sounds like a criticism, but it is only a description of the situation, nothing else. At this moment, it is a thumbs up."
Klopp said that Sturridge was so "impressive" in training on Friday that he forced his way on to the bench for Saturday's 2-2 draw with Sunderland. "When we saw him in training, you knew why everybody is waiting for him," Klopp said."
Klopp's comments that Sturridge needs to play through the pain barrier have upset the England striker, and the manager sought to put any disagreements behind him, aiming for a more united future.
"Let's not think about the past and how it was," Klopp said. "Maybe we can start now, then everything will be good. Hopefully in one year, we don't want to talk about this any more."
Liverpool also hope to welcome Coutinho back into the squad tonight, after one month out with a hamstring injury.
The possibility of extra-time and penalties will inform how much Sturridge, Coutinho and Divock Origi can play. "Divock and Phil will hopefully be in the squad," Klopp said. "It will be complicated, because extra-time is possible. We have to look at who will start. Certainly they can't all start together."
The final piece of good news for Klopp concerns his own fitness. He has recovered well from surgery for appendicitis and will be on the touchline at Upton Park, even if he will not be quite as mobile as he sometimes is.
"The surgeon was great, a Liverpool season ticket holder," Klopp said. "I am feeling really good, that is why I am here. If I wasn't fit, I would be at home. I am experienced enough to know it's not a normal coaching game. I won't jump around, because I have a few holes in my body."
Slaven Bilic, West Ham's equally passionate and charismatic manager, said that Klopp's return was inevitable. "He will be back because he's like that, he would be back even if they were top of the table and 10 points clear," he said. "The situation has not forced him to jump out of bed and go back to training. But he's a successful man who likes to work, he's Jurgen Klopp. For him it's natural. If he wants to be back, he will."
Meanwhile, Klopp admits the fans' walkout protest has now become his problem but stressed the club are keen to find a solution.
Thousands joined a 77th-minute exodus - timed to relate to the £77 it will cost for the most expensive match ticket next season - during the Sunderland draw.
Having been prevented from answering questions about the pricing structure before the match, the German has now spoken publicly.
And he appears to have some sympathy with fans.
"It is not too easy for me to say too much about it," he said. "I heard about this problem but I've had a lot of things to do in the last few weeks, but now I know it is my problem too, of course.
"But everything I could say about this now would make it more complicated because first of all I have to collect a few bits of information.
"What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this.
"It is not what we want, we don't want the people leaving the stadium before the game is finished.
"That is all I can say about this, but of course when I heard it (the walkout) I was disappointed."
The club have cancelled a question and answer session with chief executive Ian Ayre as the row over ticket prices continues.
"LFC thanks fans for submitting questions for the Q&A however due to ongoing ticketing discussions, this will no longer take place," said a statement on the club's Twitter account.
It is understood as a result of Saturday's demonstration the club's officials are already considering a review of their controversial pricing policy.