By Alex Stevens
Michael Owen is convinced Daniel Sturridge’s omission from the Liverpool team for their Europa League semi-final against Villarreal will leave a “scar” on the player.
Jurgen Klopp demoted the England international to the bench for the first-leg of the last-four clash in Spain, which was won 1-0 by Villarreal on Thursday night following an injury-time Adrian Lopez goal.
Playmaker Roberto Firmino led the line and Sturridge remained on the bench for the entire 90 minutes even though Liverpool were searching for what would have been a precious away goal and he had scored in four consecutive Premier League matches ahead of the high profile encounter.
The 26-year-old striker’s disappointment would have mounted during the match when Klopp chose to send on Jordan Ibe to replace the unwell Philippe Coutinho at half-time and fit-again Christian Benteke came on for Firmino after 90 minutes.
Asked how Sturridge would have felt, former Liverpool striker Owen told BT Sport afterwards: “It leaves a scar. Strikers are a selfish breed and he’ll be very disappointed. As a centre-forward you feel you can change games.
“Klopp has done it from a tactical point of view but there will have been a double disappointment when Benteke comes on.”
Despite the dramatic winner, the semi-final still remains delicately poised before next Thursday’s return leg at Anfield.
The winners will face either Spanish holders Sevilla or Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, who drew 2-2 in their first leg, in the Swiss city of Basel on 18 May.
In other Liverpool news, the club have settled a striker deal.