Rodgers promises Sterling recall after Villa defeat
14 September 2014, 09:49
Liverpool - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed Raheem Sterling will be restored to the starting line-up for their next match after he defended his decision to rest the youngster for the majority of a 1-0 home defeat by Aston Villa.
The Reds were unable to break down the defence of an organised Villa side that took an early lead thanks to Gabby Agbonlahor's close-range strike from a corner in the ninth minute.
Sterling, who played the full 90 minutes of England's recent Euro 2016 qualifier against Switzerland, was eventually introduced for the final half hour of Saturday's Premier League clash at Anfield.
The 19-year-old gave Liverpool more of an attacking threat when he came on for Adam Lallana but he was unable to get his side back into the game.
However, Rodgers insisted he was right to rest Sterling and revealed he will be back in the starting XI for Liverpool's Champions League match against Bulgarian outfit Ludogorets Razgrad at Anfield on Tuesday.
"It is a long, long season and it was an opportunity to give Raheem a break because he probably won't have many this season," Rodgers said.
"He will certainly play on Tuesday night. But I said at the beginning of the season that I need to trust all the players we have.
"We've got a big couple of months -- a really exciting couple of months -- coming up. Looking at it, I felt this was a game we could do that. If he didn't have international football, it would have been a different case," the Northern Irishman added.
"He came on and was bright. He's going to be, and already is, a big player for us."
Rodgers acknowledged his side lacked quality required to undo the Villa defence in Sterling's absence but insisted he had faith in the other players at his disposal.
"As a team we probably didn't quite have the intensity in our game and the speed in our game," he explained.
"We've built a squad here and I trust all of the players. As a team and a squad, we just didn't deliver.
"We've seen many games here in the couple of years I've been here where we've ended up with 15-20 shots on target, but here we just couldn't find that bit of quality for some reason." Champions League return
Five-times European champions Liverpool's focus will now be concentrated on their return to the Champions League after a four-year hiatus, with Rodgers desperate for a positive start.
"We're going into the Champions League again this season, which is where the club wants to be," he said.
"There is nothing better after a disappointing performance and result like today (Saturday) than to get going again on Tuesday night in a competition we love. Hopefully, we'll start that competition with three points."
Villa manager Paul Lambert felt his side's victory at Anfield was richly deserved but maintained that despite their impressive start to the season they would not get carried away.
The Birmingham club are unbeaten, having won three and drawn one of their opening four matches of the league campaign.
"We are only four games in but we have had a fabulous start," said Lambert. "Any given day you can win a game but it has been a big, big start.
"Football sometimes has a really bad habit of kicking you somewhere, but we will just keep going.
"There's no magic formula, the lads have got a great bit of belief and they've got a great desire to win games.
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"Tactically it was fantastic but you have to have lads who will carry it out and right from the off we were outstanding," the Scottish boss added.
"We have worked a lot on training and the lads have grasped what we are trying to do. Defensively we were immense.
"It is hard coming here (Liverpool), a club that nearly won the league, their resources are massive compared to ourselves."