Ray Houghton has described Daniel Sturridge’s latest injury setback as a ‘major blow’ for Liverpool – and has warned the Reds will struggle to improve their fortunes in the coming weeks.Brendan Rodgers’ side have struggled to replicate last season’s sparkling form, which saw them push Manchester City close for the Premier League title.The Northern Irishman has not been helped by the sale of star striker Luis Suarez, along with Sturridge’s numerous injury problems.And, with the England striker set to be sidelined for another three weeks, former Anfield favourite Houghton believes Liverpool will struggle for results both domestically and in Europe.“If Sturridge is out for any length of time, it’s a major blow for Liverpool,” he told the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast show.“Not only does it look he and Balotelli are injured, Henderson may be out for a while as well.“Liverpool are now down to the new players coming in. You do fear for them against Crystal Palace [this weekend], both teams are desperate for a result.“Liverpool need to get back to winning ways and you’re not sure that they’re going to.“The Champions League clash against Ludogorets is massive, especially after Brendan changed the team around for the match against Real Madrid.“That was with one eye on playing Ludogrets and Basel. He needs six points from those two games so he’s put a bit of pressure on himself.”
Young Surrey batsman Ollie Pope is excited and ready to make his Test debut for England against India at Lord’s on Thursday.Pope, who replaced Dawid Malan in the squad for the second Test of the five-match series, is all likely to be handed his Test cap on Thursday and he says that he wants to follow his teammate Sam Curran’s path if he gets a game for the Three Lions.Pope, 20, is considered to be one of the brightest prospects in English cricket currently and he has already scored 1012 runs in 15 first-class games for Surrey. And he says that he is similar to his county teammate S. Curran, who was the game-changer for England in the first Test.Sam took four important wickets in the first innings at Edgbaston and then scored a match-winning 63 in the second innings, after his team was reduced to 87/7 on Day 3 of the Birmingham Test.Also read – Nasser Hussain all praise for Sam Curran for showing character in abundance Ollie Pope and Sam Curran have been two of Surrey’s brightest stars in county cricket recently (AP Photo)And, Curran, who was only playing his second Test, will act as Pope’s inspiration when he gets to play for England.”It’s almost that naivety in the whole thing,” Pope told reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday. “I think I’m probably similar to him (Curran) just ready to put the shirt on and just want to perform at my best.”We’ve both played a fair bit of county cricket now and things have gone on an upward spiral.”advertisementPope’s rise in the ranks has been nothing short of a whirlwind ride and he agrees to the fact that it has indeed been hard to believe.Also read – Watching Virat Kohli bat was an eye-opener for young Sam Curran”If someone told me I’d be in the squad for the second test at Lord’s at the start of the season, I wouldn’t have really believed them,” Pope, who is averaging 85 for Surrey in the county championship this year, said.”Likewise, if someone told me I was going to make my Championship debut last year, I wouldn’t have believed them.”It’s nice to do it with Sam in the same team. When I made my Surrey debut there were four 19-year-olds in there at the same time. Things happen quickly. It’s exciting.”Pope, a wicket-keeper, who bats at six for his county side, could ask to go up the order and play at No. 4 in the absence of Malan and Ben Stokes in the side. But, he feels that he is comfortable playing spin and that won’t be a problem.”If required (to bat at four), yes,” Pope said. “Especially against this Indian side. They bowl a lot of spin, so I don’t think there’s a massive difference.”When I bat at six I can be in in the 10th over or for the second new ball. Four to six region, I don’t think there’s a massive difference in the way you play.”England won the first Test by 31 runs and the match at Lord’s will be followed by games at Trent Bridge (August 18), The Rose Bowl (August 30) and The Oval (September 7).