Neil Mellor claims Christian Benteke's struggle at Liverpool is down to lack of confidence and believes the return of Daniel Sturridge from injury can help him regain his form. The Belgium international moved to Anfield from Aston Villa last summer and since Jurgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers in October, he has failed to score in 11 fixtures played in 2016.
Sturridge has spent the majority of the last 20 months on the sidelines with multiple injuries. He returned to the squad during the Reds' 2-1 defeat to West Ham United in the FA Cup replay at Upton Park. His fitness will be the key for the Merseyside club, especially for the Capital One Cup final against Manchester City.
Mellor, who played as a striker for Liverpool between 2002 and 2006 believes it will be key for his former club to keep the England international in good shape to help Benteke regain his form. The ex-Reds player has urged Jurgen Klopp to hand Sturridge more playing time before the Capital One Cup final at Wembley.
"It's clear that Christian Benteke is struggling in that sense. There were one or two brighter moments against West Ham, but it's obvious that he is still short of confidence," Mellor told the Liverpool Echo.
"When you are, as a striker, you find yourself doing things that don't come naturally to you. You start moving into areas that you don't need to be in, and when a chance comes your way you snatch at it.
"When you're in form, everything you do just feels instinctive. Benteke hasn't got that at the moment; you can see him drifting out to the wing and staying out of the box when the ball is out wide. It'll come back to him, but he'll need to keep working.
"Daniel Sturridge's return will help. At West Ham, you could see immediately that his presence lifted proceedings. He looked sharp and lively, and he's one of those players that raises the game of those around him.
"Benteke certainly came alive with Sturridge around him. When you have a player like that on the pitch, it gives everyone confidence. You know you have someone who can score goals and win you the game in a flash, and you see other players just raising their game.
"The key now is making sure Daniel is fresh and fit as possible for the League Cup final. We have three games between now and then, starting at Villa. We need to give him minutes to get his sharpness up, but we also need to look after him, because he is the player who can make the difference for us at Wembley," he concluded.