Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann believes striker Daniel Sturridge should be saved for an impact role off the bench when Manchester United make the trip to Anfield on Sunday.
Sturridge has started Liverpool’s past three fixtures since he was named among the substitutes for the 2-1 win over Manchester City on March 1.
The England international has scored one goal in that period as he nears full fitness since returning from calf and thigh injuries.
Hamann – a UEFA Champions League winner with Liverpool – feels manager Brendan Rodgers would be better suited deploying Raheem Sterling as a striker, with Sturridge coming on as the Merseyside club bid to leapfrog United into fourth position.
“That’s what I’d do, personally,” Hamann told the Liverpool Echo. “I would not be surprised to see Sterling play up top, with Sturridge on the bench.
“I don’t think Daniel is quite at 100 per cent yet, so I think it would be good to have him as a real weapon on the bench for the last half hour, and let Sterling stretch the United defence to start with.
“If you think back to the game at Old Trafford, that was the first time we really saw Sterling used as a striker. And though we lost the game, we created more chances than we had all season, really, and he made a big difference.
“I think he’s played that role beautifully since. It changes everything when you have that pace up front, because you can stretch the game. We lacked that in the first part of the season when Mario Balotelli or Rickie Lambert were playing up there, but we’ve had it since that Old Trafford game.
“It would be a big call to leave Sturridge out, but I just think Sterling may be the way to go.”
Fifth-placed Liverpool are just two points behind United, who are a place above them, in the battle for a Champions League spot.