Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson believes captain Steven Gerrard can continue to be a big player “for years to come” – although reports suggest the 34-year-old may be rested for tonight’s Champions League game at Real Madrid.
Reds boss Brendan Rodgers, quoted in several national newspapers, indicated Gerrard may not start at the Bernabeu tonight, with one eye on this weekend’s Barclays Premier League visit of Chelsea.
“I don’t see it as a gamble,” the Northern Irishman said. “This week and these games against the likes of Real Madrid I see as a great opportunity for the squad – you put them out there and you put your trust in them to perform.
“In Steven’s case, if he is playing on Saturday I have to look at what is the priority for him and us. If he played against Newcastle and didn’t play (against Real) you could say that was the priority.
“Him and I have spoken about that. Three big games, Newcastle, Madrid and then Chelsea. I need to look at a number of players to look at the games we want them to play in.”
The former England skipper is out of contract in the summer and he hinted last week he would look elsewhere if nothing was forthcoming.
Rodgers has spoken of the influence of Gerrard, who has played every minute of all 10 Premier League and three Champions League matches this season, and he is keen for the veteran to extend his stay.
Henderson, recently named vice-captain, is seen as Gerrard’s natural successor but he is looking forward to playing alongside his team-mate for a few more seasons yet.
“Stevie is a massive player for us. He is our captain, our leader and a great role model for a lot of younger lads,” he said.
“Hopefully he will be a very big player for us for many years to come.”
First up, however, is tackling reigning champions Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in Group B of the Champions League.
The match is unlikely to decide Liverpool’s fate as their final two games are against Basle and Ludogorets with all three teams fighting for a runners-up spot.
Rodgers’ side have been given little chance of leaving Madrid with much but Henderson insisted the players were thinking differently.
“It is a huge game. Real are in a good run of form so it will be a tough test for us but a great opportunity for us to show what we can do and prove people wrong,” he added. “There is still a lot of confidence in the group and team spirit isn’t an issue.
“We have had a few people criticising us over the last few games so this is a massive opportunity to prove a few people wrong and see how good we are.
“We know we are not at our best yet but this is a great opportunity to show we are still a top side with great quality in the team and we just need to be a bit more ruthless in the final third.
“We are going into it with a view of getting something out of it.
“They have a lot of quality but at the same time so have we and we feel we have the players to come here and get a result.”