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Feb 18, 2011

Dalglish backs Cole to turn corner

Interim Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish insists Joe Cole will rediscover his form and prove to be a success at Anfield.

Cole made his first appearance under Dalglish in Thursday night's goalless draw away at Sparta Prague in the Europa League when replacing the injured Fabio Aurelio. But as has been the case throughout Cole's Liverpool career his touch was poor and he struggled to make an impression on the game.

Dalglish believes that he will see the best of Cole, who joined Liverpool on a free transfer last summer after being released by Premier League champions Chelsea, once he gets back to full fitness after struggling with hamstring and knee injuries.

The midfielder has started only 12 games all season for Liverpool as a player who was seen as a key capture ahead of the 2010-11 season has failed to live up to his billing.

"We have got to be patient with Joe. That his first run out since I came here,'' said Dalglish. "That is a great start for him, to get himself on the pitch and get an hour won't do him any harm.

"Joe is a valuable asset for us. Obviously he is not going to pick his form up immediately, if he does it will be a real bonus for us. But we are not going to put him under pressure and expect him to be the Joe Cole who came to Liverpool in the summer.

"We want to give him a bit of time and make sure he gets there. Form is temporary, class is permanent and that is where we stand with Joe. We'll give him a bit of time to get up to speed and then we'll judge him. Joe needs his injury rebuilding so we'll get that right first."

Dalglish was also optimistic he would have both captain Steven Gerrard and defender Daniel Agger back for the return leg.

"We'll see when we go back. I don't think he'll (Gerrard) be too long before he's fit and I don't think Daniel Agger will be too much of a problem either,'' Dalglish revealed. "We left Martin Kelly and Martin Skrtel out as well because young Martin Kelly has been through an awful lot in the last seven games and has been playing with a few bumps and bruises.

"This gave him the opportunity to refresh himself, and Martin Skrtel got injured at Chelsea but carried on and we didn't want to take a chance.''

Dirk Kuyt is confident they can overcome a difficult Sparta Prague side at Anfield next week.

"You always want to win and that's what we wanted,'' said the Dutchman. "It's always important to score an away goal in Europe but it is never bad not to lose. It was a tough game, they defended well and we struggled with the pitch and the weather - it was a bit difficult.

"I think the positive thing is the clean sheet. Where we could we tried to score but unfortunately that didn't happen but I think we are in a great position to win next week. We're playing well at Anfield, we have to win. It is always difficult for European teams at Anfield, the crowd will be behind us and we'll definitely play at a higher tempo.

"The ball will be moved more quickly and I've got a lot of confidence that we can go through next week.''

Meanwhile, Dalglish insists the club are realistic about the prospects of their up-and-coming young players and none will be thrown into the first team until they are ready.

All the hype prior to the goalless draw surrounded whether 16-year-old prodigy Raheem Sterling would become the club's youngest player.

"The young lads have sent postcards home and everything - they were looking for a rock shop but couldn't find one,'' joked Dalglish about their Prague trip. "They weren't here for a jolly, they were here because we were short of players.

"Conor Coady was on the bench which meant we needed at least one of them. He's a midfield player and we were short there and he was on the bench because he has done well for the academy.

"They are all deserving to be here. They are a bit young maybe to be pushed in but then if they were asked I'm sure they wouldn't have let us down through lack of effort.

"The most important thing is we have to be realistic. There was no way we were bringing them over hoping to get headlines.

"We brought them because we needed them and if we didn't have to use them that was in their interest as well as ours, but if we did have to use them we could have.''

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