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May 28, 2013

Rodgers: Sterling will be fresh

Brendan Rodgers insists that Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling will be fresh for the start of the season despite a thigh problem.

• Sterling: Reds are top-four
• Rodgers looking for 'winners'

Sterling missed the final seven weeks of his club's Premier League campaign with the injury, which has also forced him to pull out of Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 squad for the European Championship finals in Israel this summer.

The 18-year-old, who made his senior Liverpool debut against Wigan in March 2012, became a regular in Rodgers' line-up during the first half of last season.

An impressive start to the campaign brought him a first senior England cap in a 4-2 friendly defeat in Sweden in November, and he signed a five-year contract in December.

But he showed signs of fatigue after Christmas, even before being diagnosed with the thigh trouble that ended his season prematurely.

He has also had the off-field distractions of a court case over allegations of assault. Those allegations were dropped on May 20 after the prosecution offered no evidence against Sterling.

Rodgers is keen to ensure that the teenager does not suffer from burn out, and will ensure he undergoes a specially-devised fitness programme at Liverpool's Melwood training ground this summer to get him in the best possible shape for the new campaign.

"I spoke to Stuart Pearce about it and our medics were in conversation with the England doctors," Rodgers told the Liverpool Daily Post. "Everyone was in agreement that we need to look after the long-term situation with Raheem.

"He's obviously had a chronic problem where he's been playing and working through it. But we needed to give him recovery and rest. He will be better for that. He's making progress and he will be fresh for the beginning of the season."

Liverpool do have four players in the England Under-21 squad to play in Israel, and Rodgers believes they will reap the benefits.

Jordan Henderson, Andre Wisdom, Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Robinson have flown to Turkey for a training camp ahead of the opening game against Italy in Tel Aviv on June 5.

Rodgers said: "All these football experiences are good for them. I'm not one who is against players representing their countries.

"Obviously there needs to be a balance in terms of the demands placed on them but I look upon it as a real positive that we have had four players called up.

"Look at someone like Juan Mata [at Chelsea]. Two years ago, he dropped down from the senior Spain squad to the Under-21s and helped them win the tournament.

"A year later he was part of the team who won Euro 2012 and then last summer he went off to the Olympics. This season, he's gone on and played more than 60 games."

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