By Tom Maston at Anfield
If Luis Suarez was Liverpool's star of the first half of the season, then Daniel Sturridge is undoubtedly taking on that role for the run-in. The first man since Ruud van Nistelrooy to score in eight consecutive Premier League appearances, whose goals could yet fire the Reds to the title.
When Sturridge returned from injury in January there were concerns that Brendan Rodgers would find it hard to accommodate the former Chelsea star and that the England international would take time to rekindle his partnership with Luis Suarez. Not a bit of it as nine goals in seven matches stand testament to.
Criticised after missing a number of chances against Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend, former England striker Ian Wright suggested that Sturridge should choose to shoot earlier rather than round the goalkeeper when in one-on-one situations.
It was somewhat apt, then, when the former Chelsea man rounded Michel Vorm to open the scoring inside three minutes here. A close-range header later in the half showed he is more than a collector of great goals; he is capable of the simplistic as well as the spectacular.
Strikers of course can go on hot streaks, but with 27 goals in as many games it is time Sturridge is recognised as exceptional footballer in his own right, not just Suarez's partner in crime.
Brendan Rodgers, given the work he has done with the 24-year old since his arrival on Merseyside just over 12 months ago, much also receive praise for his impressive form.
High-profile managers have tried and failed to get Sturridge firing, with the decision to push him out to the right-hand side while at Chelsea cited as the main reason why he never did find the net on a consistent basis.
But Rodgers has shown that the former Manchester City trainee can perform anywhere along the frontline as long as he is backed by his manager. Utilised on the right-hand side against the Swans, he was allowed the freedom to cut inside and it is that creative license that has seen him flourish at Anfield.
It should also be seen as no coincidence that on the day England drew a relatively simple European Championship qualifying group, a man who can lead the international side’s attack for years to come continued to add to his burgeoning reputation of a goalscorer of some repute.
Rodgers spoke after the game that Sturridge “looks like scoring in every single game,” and he most certainly cannot be argued with on that. There are few hotter strikers in world football at present.For all the talk of free-scoring Manchester City, Liverpool have now found the net more times than Manuel Pellegrini’s side in the Premier League. Though Suarez can take plenty of the plaudits, it is Sturridge’s contributions that could see them overpower the Blues come the end of the campaign.