By Justin Palmer
WATFORD, England (Reuters) - Fit-again striker Daniel Sturridge can fire England into the World Cup finals if he replicates his blistering domestic form at international level, England captain and Liverpool team mate Steven Gerrard said.
Sturridge missed last month's qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine with a thigh injury but is expected to start alongside Wayne Rooney, who is also available again after injury, when England face Montenegro at Wembley on Friday.
Wins over Montenegro and at home to Poland on Tuesday would guarantee England, who top Group H by one point, a ticket to next year's finals in Brazil.
Sturridge's six Premier League goals have helped Liverpool share top spot with Arsenal after seven games.
He has only scored once - against San Marino in March - in six international appearances but Gerrard has seen first hand what the 24-year-old is capable of.
"He's razor sharp, he's got great a technique - he can score any kind of goal, like against Crystal Palace last weekend which was some finish from a tight angle," Gerrard told a news conference on Thursday.
"For me now, it's all about Daniel being available and fit and if he is he'll do a lot of damage for club and country.
"He's confident but not arrogant or flash. He's got a lot of belief in his own ability and I don't blame him for that because he's got bundles of it."
Sturridge is flourishing at Liverpool after joining in the January transfer window having failed to win a regular starting place at Chelsea.
Gerrard said he was aware that despite his undoubted talent, the player had somewhat of a negative reputation. But Sturridge had quickly proved him wrong since arriving at Anfield.
"To be honest when he came to Liverpool I was surprised because a lot of the things I'd read, and what I thought about him, he's been absolutely no problem at Liverpool," Gerrard said.
"He's needed a manager who is prepared to build a team around him, put him as the main striker. We've seen nothing but quality from Daniel in training and in the games.
"He's better than I thought he was. I'd seen him obviously at Chelsea and at Manchester City...bits and flashes but his consistency has been brilliant at Liverpool. He's fired us to the top of the league."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)