VILLARREAL – Andre Villas-Boas has compared Daniel Sturridge to Porto superstar Hulk ahead of what could be the Chelsea forward's maiden England call-up.
Blues boss Villas-Boas looks set to unleash Sturridge on former club Bolton, with the 22-year-old having been given a breather since injuring his knee in the Carling Cup win over Fulham a week and a half ago.
Sturridge was forced to bide his time after moving to Stamford Bridge two years ago and admitted before Villas-Boas' appointment this summer that he would consider leaving in search of first-team football.
But he capped a stellar loan spell at the Reebok Stadium at the second half of last season and an impressive European Under-21 Championship for England with a stunning pre-season for his parent club.
Sturridge has carried that form into the new campaign and is now being widely tipped for a senior international call for his country's final European Championship qualifier in Montenegro on Friday.
He would go with a ringing endorsement from Villas-Boas, who sees similarities between the forward and the man whose 36 goals helped the Chelsea's boss' Porto side clinch an incredible four trophies last season.
"I'm not sure how his career will evolve," said Villas-Boas ahead of the Blues' Barclays Premier League trip to the Reebok Stadium.
"He offers me a little bit of the characteristics that I had with Hulk when I was at Porto."
Sturridge has previously expressed a desire to play as a central striker but Villas-Boas sees him exclusively on the right or left of an attacking trio for the time being.
"We have been using Daniel on the right, coming inside.
"I spoke about it with Daniel in the beginning when I brought him over. Daniel is extremely happy in that position as well.
"I think it favours his natural and technical abilities and his pace, so he's competing for right and left winger positions.
"I use him on the right so, on his left foot, he likes to come in, likes to decide his next action.
"The good thing is he creates unpredictability when he goes onto his right foot."
Sturridge has always been quick but he has now added an end product to his game, both in terms of creativity and finishing.
Villas-Boas said: "You have pacey players but, in the end, what is more important is that, when you arrive to the ball, being able to do something with it and control it.
"He's a player who offers that.
"His abilities have been showing since last year, at Bolton and now at Chelsea and also at the European Under-21 Championship.
"He's a player that we count on like all the others."
The decision to loan out Sturridge was made by Villas-Boas' predecessor, Carlo Ancelotti, but it was one endorsed by the new Chelsea manager.
"To my decision-making, it was important," said Villas-Boas who rejected Bolton boss Owen Coyle's advances to extend the arrangement.
"To his formation as a player, I think it was important as well.
"Not that he didn't have that kind of ability before but every player evolves after a confident year like he had at Bolton, where he was scoring goals week in, week out.
"That's why we thought that his qualities were up to the standard of Chelsea's squad and we brought him home."
And what about being up to the standard of Fabio Capello's England?
"If he decides that Daniel can add to his squad, I'm sure he won't hesitate," said Villas-Boas, who insisted Sturridge's primary focus was on succeeding at Chelsea before thinking about breaking into England's Euro 2012 plans.
"I think his motivation is to win titles for the club.
"When he goes to the England environment - which for Daniel has been the under-21s and the youth levels - he will turn his focus of course on England's objectives."
The fighter in Owen Coyle goes into battle bearing the scars of a wretched start to the season, but confident he will eventually come out smiling.
A lengthy injury list and a difficult run of fixtures means Bolton and boss Coyle head into their Reebok Stadium clash with the Blues rock bottom of the Barclays Premier League.
Bolton have lost five of their six league games to date - 10 of 11 if you take the end of last season into consideration - and against Chelsea their record is even worse.
The Trotters have suffered eight consecutive losses on home soil to Chelsea, failing to find the net even once, and conceding 20 goals in the process.
With a number of key players on the sidelines, salt was rubbed into the wounds this week when it was confirmed midfielder Stuart Holden faces another six months out with a knee injury just when it seemed his nightmare was behind him.
Throw in the fact that come the end of Sunday Bolton will have played Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal in their first seven games, and it is easy to see why Coyle is currently rolling with the punches.
"It's easy for me to stay positive because I know exactly how this game works. I've had a career in it," Coyle said.
"I know at different times there are trials and tribulations, that you get a smack in the teeth and it's not particularly nice.
"But I also know you can feel the other side of it, and when you do that and you've earned wins when you and the club have not been in an ideal position, there's a sense of overcoming an obstacle.
"It then becomes a case of 'right, where's the next one, let's go and overcome that again'.
"But no matter where I've been, even as a player, I've always had to fight and go and earn whatever has come my away, and I'm quite prepared to go and do that again.
"We realise we've been beset by horrible injuries, real traumas in terms of how long the players will be out - Chung-yong Lee, Stuart Holden, and with another five or six on top of that.
"Then there has been the set of fixtures we've been given, but that is the nature of football.
"If you are going to let something like that get you down then you shouldn't be in the game."
Coyle believes just one positive result is all that is required to raise spirits within the camp, particularly ahead of the next international break.
"We've good players, a good team, and yes, one or two things have gone against them," added Coyle.
"But when you work hard to earn that victory it picks you up and you kick on up the table.
"That's what your goal has to be, that sense of achievement, the satisfaction in doing that.
"The only way you do it is by earning it because nobody will gift you it, particularly at this level which is unforgiving.
"So Sunday affords us an opportunity, of winning a game against Chelsea, one I know we are capable of doing."
Coyle has selection woes, though, as on-loan Gael Kakuta is ineligible as he cannot face his parent club, David Wheater and Ivan Klasnic are suspended, while goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen is doubtful with a leg knock.