Sturridge finds form in friendly
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge stepped up his bid to be fit for Saturday's Premier League opener with two goals in a behind-closed-doors friendly.
The England international made only his second appearance of pre-season, having played 45 minutes of last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Celtic in Dublin.
He scored twice, both penalties, in a 3-1 win over Newcastle in a fixture arranged in order to specifically give the 23-year-old a chance to improve his match sharpness.
Sturridge sustained an ankle injury on international duty against the Republic of Ireland in May and an intense programme of rehabilitation meant he missed the club's tour of Asia and Australia.
His long-awaited return for the second half of the friendly at Dublin's Aviva Stadium injected some threat into a forward line struggling to break down their opponents' defence.
And while he could not force an equaliser, his performance raised hopes he could be ready to face Stoke at Anfield when the league campaign gets under way.
With Luis Suarez suspended for a further six matches as his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in April is carried over, and Iago Aspas - a £7million summer signing from Celta Vigo - still finding his feet in England, Sturridge's return to fitness is a timely boost for manager Brendan Rodgers.
Defender Martin Skrtel's recovery from injury may take longer as knee ligament trouble has restricted his recent opportunities.
He was left behind on Merseyside for the friendly against Celtic and did not travel to join up with Slovakia for international duty this week.
"I stretched ligaments in my knee. Luckily it is not a serious injury," he said in quotes on his personal website, martin-skrtel.com. "I can basically run but it hurts when I kick the ball. I can feel the pain in the back of my knee.
"It is not one of the major muscles but it is still not very comfortable.
"I spoke with Mr (Jan) Kozak, who is a new coach of Slovakia, and I also spoke with the medical staff and we agreed that it would be better when I stay in Liverpool.
"I hope it is not a serious injury, though, and I want to be back on the pitch as soon as possible."