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Klopp backs injury-free Sturridge to fire for Liverpool

Liverpool’s English striker Daniel Sturridge pictured during the English Premier League match against Southampton at Anfield in Liverpool, northwest England on May 7, 2017 © AFP/File / PAUL ELLIS

HONG KONG, China, Jul 18 – Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp plans to unleash an injury-free Daniel Sturridge in the new season with the England striker back training fully fit and focused.

“It’s the best condition he has been in since I have been here,” Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong on Tuesday ahead of his second full campaign as Liverpool manager.

Sturridge has been troubled by a spate of injuries since joining the Reds from Premier League rivals Chelsea in 2013 and hip problems restricted his impact to just seven goals from 27 appearances last season.

The 27-year-old has recently been linked with a big-money move to China, but Klopp insisted Sturridge was going nowhere, backing him to return to 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 part in the Premier League Asia Trophy also involving Leicester City, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp pictured at a press conference in Hong Kong on July 18, 2017, ahead of the 2017 Premier League Asia Trophy being played on July 19 and 22 © AFP / ISAAC LAWRENCE

“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.”

Amid fanfare over the arrival of record signing Mohamed Salah to Liverpool, signed from Roma last month for an estimated $45 million, Klopp said his primary focus was on seeing his club improve on last season’s fourth-place finish.

“Sometimes (the news) is all about bringing in new players but the main thing is how do we improve the players we had last season,” said the former Dortmund coach, currently playing a waiting game on key transfer targets Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk.

“The good thing is we did not lose any player that we want and I expect a lot of improvement from the players we have.”

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

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

But Klopp refused to be drawn on Leipzig midfielder Keita or van Dijk, the Southampton defender.

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

“I am not easy to frustrate. It’s the transfer market — sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. I have all the players I want, until now. I’m still relaxed.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool arrived in Hong Kong on Monday to a deluge of rain and flood warnings.

“You have to make the best of the circumstances,” said Klopp. “We come from England so we are used to a little bit of rain but yesterday was a little bit too much. Situations like this are like football -– you always need to find solutions.”

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