Football

Klopp impressed with fighting-fit Sturridge

Reds boss ready to unleash injury-free striker in new season

He made only seven Premier League starts last season, scoring seven goals from 27 appearances.

Daniel Sturridge has been plagued by injuries over the past two-and-a-half years since joining Liverpool from Premier League rivals Chelsea in 2013.

But Juergen Klopp has seen enough in pre-season training to be convinced of the England striker's fitness and focus.

"It's the best condition he has been in since I have been here," Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong yesterday ahead of his second full campaign as Liverpool manager.

The 27-year-old Sturridge has recently been linked with a big-money move to China, but Klopp insisted that the England international was going nowhere, backing him to rediscover the kind of form that almost helped bring Liverpool a league title in his first season on Merseyside.

"He has been part of a full pre-season so far so that is very positive," Klopp said before Liverpool take on Crystal Palace in the Premier League Asia Trophy today, which also involves 2016 champions Leicester City and West Brom.

"It has been quite intense what we have done and he has pretty much been part of each session so that is good. He is in good physical shape."

Mohamed Salah is one of two new signings Liverpool have brought with them to Hong Kong.

The Egypt international has hit the ground running with the Reds, scoring in his first friendly against Wigan last week, while 19-year-old striker Dominic Solanke will also be looking to impress his new boss following his free transfer from Chelsea.

Klopp is unfazed by Salah's underwhelming first spell in the Premier League at Chelsea, having tracked the 25-year-old since his days at Switzerland's FC Basel.

Salah joined Chelsea in 2014 and struggled to make a mark, scoring twice in 19 appearances before being loaned out to Italy's Fiorentina and then moving to Roma in 2015, where he was directly involved in 58 goals in 83 matches for the club.

Klopp, who managed Borussia Dortmund until 2015, admitted that he wanted to buy the Egypt international well before his Roma exploits, after watching Salah play for Basel against Dortmund.

"A lot of players have shown it is quite easy to struggle at Chelsea. (Kevin) De Bruyne is one," Klopp told British media.

"The only thing that we really ignored was what he (Salah) did at Chelsea.

"When he was at Basel, we (Dortmund) played them and we didn't know him.

"It was unbelievable. The moment I said 'Let's go for him', he was already at Chelsea.

"Then he struggled at Chelsea because it was too early... The question is 'What did you not see in him?', because he played all-inclusive football. He was quick, he played a lot of games, he created goals and chances and he scored by himself."

Klopp refused to be drawn on transfer targets RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita and Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk, saying his primary focus was on seeing his club improve on last season's fourth-placed finish.

"It is what it is and the transfer market is open until the (Aug) 31st," said the German, whose team kick off their Premier League campaign at Watford on Aug 12.

"I have all the players I want, until now. I'm still relaxed."

Media reports, however, suggested that Liverpool are on the brink of signing defender Andrew Robertson after he reportedly left Hull City's training camp in Portugal this week.

It is understood the Reds have completed an £8 million (S$14.3m) deal for the 23-year-old left back.

The Daily Mirror suggested that the Scotland international has said his goodbyes to his Hull teammates, and a medical is scheduled with the Merseyside outfit. - WIRE SERVICES

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