Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is in the best shape Jurgen Klopp has seen him during his spell at Anfield. The England striker has been beset with injury problems since the German coach took over in October 2015, making just 15 Premier League starts during his 21-month spell at the helm.
Klopp has regularly cut a frustrated figure with Sturridge often unavailable due to niggles, with the ex-Borussia Dortmund boss regularly venting his irritation at his continual lack of fitness. Knee, calf, hamstring and hip injuries have all dogged the 27-year-old in the last two years, even leading to reports regarding a possible move to West Ham United.
Sturridge has, however, played a central role in Liverpool's preparations for the new campaign, playing 45 minutes in the pre-season games against Tranmere Rovers and Wigan Athletic. The Liverpool boss has been impressed by his new-found fitness and believes he has never been healthier during his spell in charge.
"Good, very good. Daniel has been a part of full pre-season so far," Klopp told a press conference upon Liverpool landing in Hong Kong ahead of the Barclays Asia Trophy, according to Teamtalk. "It's been quite intense but he's been part of pretty much every session.
"It's the best condition I've seen from him since I'm here. I came in October 2015 and Daniel, I think, was probably injured. Last pre-season was after a tournament and only a short break. But this year he has had a proper break and is in a good physical shape, absolutely."
Captain Jordan Henderson, who missed the concluding three months of last term with a foot problem, has followed Sturridge's lead by playing in both of the domestic friendlies and will hope to ramp up his fitness starting against Crystal Palace on Wednesday [19 July]. But Klopp says Liverpool have to be careful with the skipper's fitness given his lengthy lay-off.
"He needs games and rhythm because that's what he missed most in the last few months,"the Liverpool coach added."It was a long, long time that we had to play without him and you saw in our first two games that he can run, he has no pain, he's getting in a better and better physical shape.
"It's a very important pre-season for him. It's not the same shape and rhythm that it was before he got injured, but for all the players, that's the same. The best thing is to play and train and often as possible.
"He is an outstanding and important player for us. It's very good for him that we have another two or three weeks before we really get going. We'll give him as many minutes as possible and as many minutes that makes sense for him so we don't overload him."