Sturridge can be decisive in Champions League push - Rodgers

Daniel Sturridge's injury may have cost Liverpool a Champions League place last season and Brendan Rodgers hopes the forward can be key.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes Daniel Sturridge can "make the difference" for his team as they bid to return to the Champions League.

Sturridge struck a brace in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Saturday in what was just his second outing of the season.

Rodgers hopes the injury-prone forward can stay fit and be decisive for his team, who sit ninth in the Premier League.

"Players like that make the difference," Rodgers said.

"We haven’t scored three goals since he last started a game [against Tottenham in February].

"He gives you a big opportunity to win games and compete at the top end of the table. He is a fantastic talent and now the job is hopefully he can stay fit."

Sturridge hardly featured last season due to various injuries, and his absence was felt keenly by Rodgers' side.

Liverpool finished sixth and Rodgers believes the England striker's absence may have cost his team a Champions League place.

"Yes, because he is in that elite band of player that we’ve seen here," he added.

"We've seen here the brand of football we can create when we have that talent available.

"He played a massive part in that, so if he stays fit and others come into the reckoning we can piece together an exciting team again.

"Those players make the difference."