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By ESPN Staff

Gerrard to play in FA Cup clash

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has reaffirmed his "trust" in captain Steven Gerrard and insists he never had any doubts about playing his key midfielder in Saturday's FA Cup tie at Preston North End.

It has been a traumatic week for Gerrard, who on Sunday scored twice in a devastating 5-1 Premier League victory at Newcastle to keep Liverpool top of the table.

Less than 24 hours later he was allegedly involved in an nightclub incident in Southport which has resulted in charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray, and he is due to appear at Sefton magistrates court at the end of the month.

But Benitez will field Gerrard at Deepdale in the third-round tie, despite the controversy surrounding the England star.

In fact, Preston may well find themselves facing a much strong side than they would have expected.

Not only will Gerrard be leading from the front, but Fernando Torres, Martin Skrtel, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio - all previously injured - are back in the squad.

Benitez said of the decision to include Gerrard: "In terms of football, everything has been normal for Steven. He has received the support of everyone - the players, myself, the club - and he has trained well and is focused on football.

"I do not believe he will be distracted. He wants to play football and concentrate just on that. He will be thinking about playing well, scoring goals and making sure the club progresses to the next round.

"He will play, and I have confidence he will be ready. It was a bad situation, but because we know most of the details, maybe not all, we have to support him because we know these things can happen to footballers now because they are very famous.

"If we want to help him, the best thing is to train normally and organise things in the same way. And to give him the opportunity to play football."

He added: "He will get that chance at Preston, hopefully by scoring goals he will know how pleased our fans will be. It is the only way to handle things.

"Everybody here has been supporting him. We know what was going on and it is clear it was a special situation, and we have to support him because we trust him.

"He will play, we will select a strong team and we will hope to continue our momentum. Maybe some players will be changed, but Steven will have a very good team on the pitch with him.

"He will not be rotated. He has been playing well and not had too many games so far, he was injured for a while during the season."

Benitez has done his best this week to support his captain and to keep him focused on his job.

He said: "Steven has been okay. He has been training normally. I have spoken to him and also talked to the (club) lawyer and I support him 100%.

"The best thing for him and for us is to focus on football. He has been training really well and he will play against Preston.

"He will play because for me his attitude shows that he is ready.

"We are not worried about the situation. He is a very good professional and he will be just thinking about football and hopefully score some goals.

"I believe he will play as well as he was playing before and everyone will be talking just about the game. I do not believe this will have an adverse effect on his season."

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