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Sense of urgency needed at Stoke

Stoke City
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 By Mike Whalley

Rodgers backs Gerrard to avoid ban

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has told the Guardian that captain Steven Gerrard is “clever enough” to avoid the booking that would bring him a two-match ban at a vital stage of the season.

Gerrard is set to face Sunderland at Anfield on Wednesday in the knowledge that he could miss a chunk of his boyhood club’s challenge for their first league title since 1990 if he makes a disciplinary slip.

The midfielder, 33, picked up his ninth yellow card of the season during Saturday’s 6-3 Premier League victory over Cardiff.

If he picks up a 10th booking either on or before April 13, he will automatically incur a two-game suspension.

Rodgers told the Guardian: “He just has to be a bit more cautious but he is clever enough to get through that.”

The threat of a ban has crept up suddenly on the England captain, who was booked only twice in his first 21 appearances of the season for his club.

He has received seven yellow cards in his last 11 appearances -- a period which has seen him drop back into a holding midfield role -- but must steer clear of any more in Liverpool’s next four games.

In addition to taking on Sunderland, the Reds face Tottenham, West Ham and Manchester City before the suspension cut-off date passes.

Gerrard has been booked in each of Liverpool’s last two games -- the 3-0 victory at Manchester United on March 16 and the win at Cardiff -- but Rodgers is confident that his captain can stay out of any further trouble.

He said: “We just have to cope with the situation. I have spoken to him about it and we just have to be that extra bit careful.

“I think his last two bookings have been unlucky. The one against Manchester United should never have been a booking.

“He won a header that was very difficult to win -- and he was unfortunate against Cardiff at the weekend, because he committed a foul which also should not have been a booking.

“We didn’t help him because we gave away the ball so cheaply. He has been unfortunate picking up some unnecessary bookings that were not through him.”

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