LIVERPOOL -- Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is on course to return to action in mid-January as he recovers from a thigh injury, manager Brendan Rodgers has said.
The striker -- who scored 21 Premier League goals for the Reds last season -- has not played for his club since Aug. 31 after suffering three separate injuries.
He was initially forced out of action with a thigh problem sustained during an England training session on Sep. 5, but Rodgers believed at the time that the striker would be back by late October.
Sturridge, though, then suffered a calf injury during club training on Oct. 16, and was then hit by a third setback when he sustained a grade two thigh strain during a practice session on Nov. 18.
Liverpool sent the 25-year-old to the U.S. over Christmas for treatment on the injury, and he will return to Merseyside later this week to continue his rehabilitation.
Rodgers said: "He's coming back into the country in early January to finalise his rehab here. Then we hope that at some point in January -- the middle to end of the month -- he'll be available to play."
Liverpool have been hit hard by the injury to Sturridge and the sale of Luis Suarez, last season's 31-goal top scorer, to Barcelona in July. Without his two main strikers from last season, Rodgers has tried a number of options in attack, with summer signings Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert making a limited impact.
The manager has enjoyed more success by deploying winger Raheem Sterling in a central attacking role, and is set to continue doing that when Leicester visit Anfield in the Premier League on Thursday.
Rodgers suggested over Christmas that Balotelli, signed from AC Milan for 16 million pounds in August, may have to get used to being a substitute, because he does not fit into the high-intensity style of play that the manager prefers.
Balotelli's long-term future at Anfield has been the subject of much speculation in the four months since he signed a three-year contract, but he still has a contribution to make, according to the manager.
Rodgers said: "The team functions in a certain way and we need a certain profile of player to make it work, as you've seen over the last few weeks. But he's a player who still has a contribution to make for us.
"He's working hard in training, Mario. He wants to be the best he can be. Whether he starts a game or comes on from the bench, we'll look for a contribution from him."