Brendan Rogers

Brendan Rodgers trusts young Raheem Sterling as Liverpool’s prime scorer

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Raheem Sterling delivered the game-winning goal for Liverpool in a Boxing Day contest against Burnley, and Reds’ manager Brendan Rodgers is excited for the young English international.

At age 20, many thought Sterling’s boundless potential existed on the wing, or in the center as an attacking midfielder, but the Northern Irishman has employed him as a forward instead.

After receiving flak for doing so, it appears this move has begun to pay off, with Sterling netting three goals in the past three games, including a brace against Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup.

With Daniel Sturridge still not fully ready to perform on the pitch, along with the departure of star striker Luis Suarez, Liverpool has struggled to preserve a goalscorer able to clinically in and around the box. And this issue has definitely contributed to the Red’s rocky results up to this point in the season.

Is Sterling the solution? Rodgers thinks so, and he asserted that the former Queens Park Ranger youth standout will continue to evolve the abilities as a scorer. The 41-year-old drew upon statistics of Sterling from a season ago to support this view.

“You’ve other players who are out-and-out number nines but as [Sterling’s] career matures I think he will show he’s got that ability,” Rodgers said, courtesy of The Telegraph. “I think you’ll see Raheem’s numbers improve and improve as his career goes on.

“His outcome last year in terms of goals and assists is probably where it’s at – up and around between 10 and 15 is a very good return for him,” Rodgers said. “He knows his job is to create goals and score goals and he’s doing very well at the moment.”

We can only wait and see what role Sterling will take on once Sturridge comes back from injury, which will supposedly happen in early January. Would a duel-forward formation be in order? Or is Sterling’s pace too valuable in the midfield?

Daniel Sturridge links injury problems to his ‘Caribbean vibes’

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Liverpool are certainly in need of a man to spur their attack, and striker Daniel Sturridge could very well be that missing component to reignite the Reds’ offense.

Netting 24 goals in 33 total appearances, Sturridge performed at a high level for Brendan Rodger’s squad last season, alongside Luis Suarez, who departed to contend for titles in Spain with Barcelona.

But with Suarez out and August signing Mario Balotelli still getting acclimated to his new side, the Anfield faithful are hoping to see the Englishman back on the pitch as soon as possible.

The ex-Chelsea forward has only played in four games after he sustained a thigh injury two months ago during international-team training. And his recent calf strain will have him sidelined for several more weeks to the dismay of many.

Sturridge has attributed his bad health to familial roots, known to him as “Caribbean vibes.”

“I play my game as best I can, but I’ve been unfortunate this season,” he said, via The Independent. “Maybe it’s my body type, maybe it’s hereditary.

“Both my uncles had injuries, and my dad had them as well. Maybe it’s the Caribbean vibes, maybe I have speed but maybe it makes you more vulnerable because of the fast twitch muscles and the speed at which you’re moving.”

With injury misfortunate comes the importance of a consistent effort to rebuild himself en route to his return, and the 25-year-old recognizes this fact.

“I am vulnerable to muscle injuries. As long as I continue to work hard, everything will take care of itself,” he said.

Rodgers insists he never limited Raheem Sterling in Euro 2016 qualifier

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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has dismissed claims that he told England manager Roy Hodgson to sit young Reds midfielder Raheem Sterling during the Euro 2016 qualifier vs. Estonia.

Sterling told Hodgson that he wasn’t feeling up to full fitness, and therefore, took the pitch as a substitute. Reports had surfaced that Rodgers didn’t desire Sterling to perform for most of the international match, however.

The Northern Irishman, usually calm and collected during his interviews, addressed media in a serious tone, insisting that in no way, shape or form did he influence the 19-year-old’s standing with his country.

“At no point did Raheem Sterling say he didn’t want to play for England,” he said, per the Independent. “The boy is being hung out to dry and I dare say the criticism will continue for a few more weeks to come because of this.”

Based on similar situations in the past, it appears Rodgers strongly believes that it was ultimately Hodgson’s decision to sit the winger.

“Let me tell you, there have been at least five occasions in the past when Raheem has said he felt tired before games but he’s never refused to play,” said Rodgers. “We have taken on board what he has said and taken a decision accordingly. I rested him against Aston Villa and we lost the game. But it was our decision to do so – and our decision alone. Last season he said he felt tired before the Manchester City game. We won 3-2 and he put in a man-of-the-match performance.”

Sterling has scored three goals and added two assists for Liverpool in six Premier League starts this year. He has yet to score for England.

Mario Balotelli excluded from Italy squad prepping for Euro 2016 qualifiers

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New Italy boss Antonio Conte has named his roster for upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Malta, but striker Mario Balotelli, who has been considered one of Italy’s more dynamic forwards, didn’t make the cut again.

And this action arrived after Brendan Rogers decided to nix the Italian from his usual starting XI in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over West Brom earlier today.

Balotelli was also excluded from his country’s friendly vs. the Netherlands and Euro qualifier against Norway in September.

Conte has added a fresh face to replace the 24-year-old striker in the forward rotation. His name is Graziano Pelle and he’s enjoyed a great beginning to the season, scoring five goals in eight games so far this season. Pelle is a huge reason for Southampton’s early year success.

On the defensive side, youngster Daniele Rugani received his very first call-up to the senior team, and the Blues highest-capped defender, Juventus man Giorgio Chellini, is unsurprisingly set to star for his country.

Below is the complete roster, via ESPN FC.

Goakeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain).

Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter Milan), Daniele Rugani (Empoli).

Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Andrea Poli (AC Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain).

Forwards: Mattia Destro (Roma), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Borussia Dortmund), Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Inter Milan), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Simone Zaza (Sassuolo).

Premier League Preview: West Ham vs. Liverpool

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  • Liverpool haven’t failed score away from home in the league in 2014, with 33 goals in their last 11 away matches.
  • Sam Allardyce’s side are still looking for their first clean sheet of the season in all competitions. They have failed to keep a clean sheet in 15 of their last 16 league matches.
  • Mario Balotelli has scored just one goal in his last 18 Premier League appearances. (BBC Sport)

On NBC this Saturday, two sides that will clash against each other at 12:30 p.m. ET are not boasting a completely different outlook of their latest results. Liverpool, although they haven’t lost two league competitions in a row since December 2013, could be in danger of falling down that path following a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa last week. West Ham are winless in their past two PL matches, notching a 2-2 draw vs. Hull City and succumbing to Southampton in a 3-1 loss.

Liverpool sit at eight place in the standings, while West Ham occupies thirteenth place right now.

Brendan Rogers hasn’t been able to delight in a healthy squad this year, but take into account the Reds recent history at Boleyn Ground, where Liverpool edged Sam Allardyce’s side 2-1 during an exceptional 11-game victorious streak. It was Steven Gerrard who buried the penalty kick to give his squad the advantage in this contest. In fact, the captain has been very successful against the Hammers on the road, counting six of his seven Premier League goals scored vs. West Ham at their home grounds. With star striker Daniel Sturridge looking to miss a third consecutive match, the 34-year-old midfielder and Mario Balotelli will feel the heat to produce offensively.

West Ham hoped to bolster their opportunity this year with a few summer signings, including the acquisition of midfielder Alex Song on loan from Barcelona. Former Lazio forward Mauro Zarate and Equador’s Enner Valencia also came help Allardyce breed consistency in 2014-15, and viewers should keep an eye on both of these players v. Liverpool. The Hammers’ defense hasn’t been capable of totaling a clean sheet so far this year, and they will hope that if Alex Song can make his debut, his stout defensive ability will help strengthen their chances as a whole.

What they’re saying:

Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers on Aston Villa defeat (Goal.com): “Against Villa we weren’t at our level in the final third and Villa defended well. We moved on from that, got a great result [against Ludogorets] and the perspective after a couple of days makes it a good result. We showed the character and the mental qualities that successful teams have to come through and win the game, something we’ll look to take into the weekend.”

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce on his squad’s form and expectations v. Liverpool (Sky Sports): “We were pleased with the performance, but not the ultimate result (the 2-2 draw with Hull). The three points would have been very valuable to us with the fixtures we have coming up.The big question mark for us now is whether we can get anything against Liverpool to stop that run of poor results. That is clearly what we have to do against one of the big boys.”

Match absences: Andy Carroll (ankle), Matt Jarvis (thigh), Joey O’Brien (knee) and Kevin Nolan (shoulder) will not play for the Hammers due to injury issues. Meanwhile, defender Martin Skrtel looks set to make an appearance after getting past a knee injury that’s kept him off the field for three games. Glen Johnson (thigh) is essentially regarded as “out” at this point, and Jon Flanagan has received knee surgery to sideline him for multiple months.

Prediction: Injury-depleted or not, Liverpool is the more skilled team, and after losing to Aston Villa 1-0, one can guess that the Reds will be hungry to strike back with a bang, taking care of business on the road against Allardyce’s pesky squad. It’s not a very simple victory for Rogers, however. 3-2, Liverpool win.