Brendan Rodgers has said Daniel Sturridge's commitment to England should not be questioned, as the Liverpool striker prepares to return from injury against Swansea City.
Sturridge was forced to miss the World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine with a thigh strain aggravated in the Premier League defeat of Manchester United on 1 September. The forward, named Premier League player of the month for August after scoring five goals in four matches in all competitions, is expected to be fit when Liverpool attempt to maintain their 100% start to the season at the Liberty Stadium on Monday.
The 24-year-old was accused of disregarding the national team earlier this week, having stated in a club interview that his main ambition is to deliver for Liverpool. He took to Twitter to clarify: "If I do well for my club, I will play for England. If I'm not fit, I can't play. Don't get it twisted. England is the pinnacle."
But Rodgers, conscious the issue will be revived should Sturridge face Swansea, has moved to the striker's defence and said his World Cup absence was not a club-versus-country conflict. "He was obviously disappointed to miss out on the England games. He wanted to play for England and I felt sorry for him," said Rodgers, who made it a Liverpool clean sweep of the Premier League's awards for August as manager of the month.
"He came here first and foremost to do as well as he could for Liverpool knowing that, if he did, he could be a main striker for England. Unfortunately he left the Manchester United game injured and the medical staff at England deemed him not quite fit enough for the first game and they were perfectly happy he was not going to play. The medical experts made the decision, not Daniel Sturridge. He returned here and there was a slight improvement but Roy [Hodgson] and his staff have to make a decision if he's going to be available for the second game and at that stage he wasn't."
The Liverpool manager says Sturridge is only in consideration for the Swansea game due to the rearranged date. He explained: "By the time we play on Monday it will be nearly two weeks and for a grade one strain, experts who know better than I do say it is perfectly reasonable to be back playing in that timescale.
"But he should not be held up, if he does play on Monday, as someone who has turned down his country because that is not the case at all. If it was a Saturday game he may well have struggled but that extra bit of time gives him a chance and I would suspect he will hopefully be fit, although he won't be 100% fit."
Liverpool are certainly without Glen Johnson on Monday, and for an estimated five weeks in total, after the in-form defender suffered an ankle injury against United. "It is a disappointment because I think he's made a good start and he was excellent against Manchester United," Rodgers added. "Fortunately for us, with the way it works out with the international breaks, he'll probably miss only about four Premier League games."