Basel-Liverpool Preview: Sturridge in contention to face giant-killers

The England international, out of action for almost a month, could return for the trip to St Jakob-Park, a venue where the Swiss side have claimed the scalps of Chelsea & Tottenham

Daniel Sturridge could be in line to give Liverpool a welcome boost ahead of their Champions League trip to Basel on Wednesday.

Sturridge has not featured in his club’s last five matches after sustaining a thigh injury while on international duty with England at the beginning of September, and Brendan Rodgers’s side have struggled in the absence of a player who has netted 36 goals in 52 appearances since moving to Anfield.

The Merseysiders’ unconvincing start to the new campaign has heralded just seven points from their opening six Premier League games and they required an injury-time penalty from captain Steven Gerrard to beat Ludogorets 2-1 in their Champions League opener a fortnight ago.

But their talisman Sturridge is edging closer to a much-anticipated return – with Rodgers revealing in the aftermath of Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday that the 25-year-old could feature in Switzerland.

“He wasn’t really close for this game [the Merseyside derby],” said the Northern Irishman. “I’ll see how he is [for Basel]. He wasn’t far away for Everton, but he certainly wasn’t fit enough to be on the bench.

“Daniel is obviously a top talent – and he’s not far away from being back playing.”

Sturridge is one of a number of Liverpool players currently struggling with injury, and Rodgers looks set to be without Emre Can (ankle), as well as Glen Johnson and Joe Allen (both knee), at St Jakob-Park.

Mario Balotelli, who scored his first Liverpool goal in the victory over Ludogorets, is likely to lead the line once again, though will be hoping he is more clinical on Wednesday than he was against Everton, where he had 10 efforts on goal without scoring.

In contrast to Liverpool’s domestic struggles, Basel go into Wednesday’s clash top of the Swiss Super League.

However, Paulo Sousa’s team were thumped 5-1 by Real Madrid in their first group game as the reigning European champions ran riot in the first half at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That result makes Wednesday’s fixture even more crucial for Basel, with Sousa’s men widely expected to be in a two-way battle with Liverpool for second place in Group B behind Real.

History is on Basel’s side, though, as Liverpool – and Gerrard in particular – do not have fond memories of St Jakob-Park.

A below-par Gerrard was substituted at half-time in his side’s last visit to Basel back in November 2002 – a game Liverpool needed to win to qualify from their Champions League pool.

Basel stormed into a 3-0 lead after just 29 minutes and, although a second-half fightback enabled Liverpool to draw 3-3, that was not enough to prevent their elimination to the Uefa Cup.

Some 12 years on, Gerrard – the only surviving member of that Liverpool team – is sure to be determined to make amends for what he has labelled one of the worst performances of his career, while Basel’s recent victories over the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham show they are still no pushovers.

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