SUNDERLAND // Brendan Rodgers insists Liverpool have the best strike pair in the Premier League after watching Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge cement their growing partnership.
Suarez scored twice on his return to top flight action after a 10-game ban, both goals set up by Sturridge, who broke the deadlock in a 3-1 win at Sunderland that pushed Rodgers’ side back up to second.
The Liverpool manager expects the duo to keep on improving together, and warned their Premier League rivals: “I’m not sure there’s a better front two in the league.”
He added: “Of course you’ve got van Persie and Rooney at Manchester United, but our two are up there with the best in the country.
“The two of them will only get better the longer they play together. They’re working hard in training, and it helps that they’re two different types of player. One has pace, power and two good feet, and one is a wriggler who ends up in the box and is hard to track.
“Luis isn’t fazed by much. There’s a remarkable mentality and the steel in his mindset, he’s just so focused and it’s like a new signing with him coming back. It’s great for the team and great for the supporters, who deserve to see someone of that quality.”
While Sturridge has 11 goals in his last 11 top flight appearances, Suarez hit the ground running, finding the net on his first Premier League appearance in 161 days, punishment for sinking his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic, the Chelsea defender, in April.
The Uruguayan, who now boasts seven goals in six games against Sunderland, has stayed sharp thanks to a rigorous fitness regime during his enforced absence.
“Goalscorers are judged on goals and assists. Daniel got one and set up two, and they both have a hunger to score,” said Rodgers.
“Luis has not been cocooned away and then just come back in. He’s someone who loves football and I knew how much it would hurt him not to be playing, so he’s been doing extra finishing sessions and conditioning sessions to help him get back up to speed.
“It’d be hard for anyone to say he wasn’t very good today, and his performance is credit to our conditioning team for the work they’ve done with him.”
Sunderland remain bottom with a point from six games.
They are without a Premier League win for more than five months, despite a performance from which Kevin Ball, the interim manager, drew plenty of positives.
The managerless Wearside club continue to search for a successor to Paolo Di Canio, having already held talks with Gus Poyet, the former Brighton manager, and Rene Meulensteen, the former Manchester United coach.
“Our efforts are focused on appointing a new head coach,” Margaret Byrne, the chief executive, said. “There’s been a lot of interest but there is no definitive timescale as we’re carefully examining all the options available to us.
“We’ve had contact with interested parties and have others to speak to in the coming days. As soon as we’ve identified the right person to take the club forward we will make an announcement.”