Rodgers defends fit-again Sturridge
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has leapt to the defence of striker Daniel Sturridge by insisting there is no club-versus-country conflict.
Sturridge, August's Premier League player of the month after scoring in the Reds' first three matches, missed both England's World Cup qualifiers with a thigh strain.
However, he is expected to be fit for Monday evening's return to league action at Swansea.
But Rodgers, himself celebrating a manager of the month award after guiding Liverpool to the top of a fledgling table with a 100 per cent record, stressed nothing should be read into that.
Sturridge took to Twitter earlier in the week to clarify comments made in an interview in which he said he was more worried about putting in good performances for the Anfield side after criticism on the social networking site.
"He was obviously disappointed to miss out on the England games. He wanted to play for England and I felt sorry for him," said Rodgers.
"He came here first and foremost to do as well as he could for Liverpool knowing if he did well his aim was to be England striker.
"The medical experts made the decision, not Daniel Sturridge.
"He left the Manchester United game (on September 1) injured and went away and the medical staff at England deemed him not quite fit enough for the first game and they were perfectly happy he was not going to play.
"He returned and there was a slight improvement but Roy (Hodgson) and his staff have to make a decision if he's going to be available (for the second match in Ukraine) and at that stage he wasn't.
"But by the time we play on Monday it will be nearly two weeks and for a grade one strain, experts who know better than I do say it is perfectly reasonable to be back playing in that time-scale.
"But he should not be held up, if he does play on Monday, as being someone who has turned down his country because that is not the case at all.
"It will have been nearly a week (since England's second game) and with the injury he had it gives him a chance to play.
"If it was a Saturday game he may well have struggled but that extra bit of time gives him a chance and I would suspect he will hopefully be fit, although he won't be 100 per cent fit."
Having Sturridge leading the line at the Liberty Stadium will be a major boost for Rodgers, considering the striker's impact since joining from Chelsea for £12million in January and the continued suspension of Luis Suarez.
Sturridge has scored the winner in each of Liverpool's three league games this season, as well as grabbing two in the Capital One Cup win over Notts County.
Prior to his move to Anfield there were doubts over whether he could cut it at a big club after failing to establish himself at Manchester City and Chelsea but Rodgers has been impressed.
"You never know how it is going to go but I felt if you gave him an opportunity....I think he has shown in his career if he is given the opportunity he is a natural goalscorer," said the Reds boss.
"At this stage of his career, aged 24, he has all the things to his game to be a top striker.
"Since coming here he has had the confidence he is going to play and we work on him on a daily basis - on and off the field - to make him the best he can be.
"It is also a credit to him because he has committed himself to the challenges of playing as one of the leading strikers at one of the biggest clubs in the world, which isn't easy.
"To get a return of 16 goals in 20 games is what you have to do as a striker.
"Standards are set throughout European football now and if you want to be a top striker you have to get in the goals.
"I am not surprised but it is always pleasant when they come in and do so well."
Rodgers' season has also begun well but he dedicated his Premier League award to everyone who has contributed.
"I am obviously very honoured but I didn't receive it on my own, it's very much a collective effort here," he said.
"The players have been outstanding, they reclaimed the mentality very quickly from last season.
"It is very much them that have allowed me to get the reward and the players and all the staff deserve the credit for it."