Brendan Rodgers: Give young Liverpool stars a break

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers called for a sense of perspective after a week when young players Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe were splashed all over the front pages for off-field activities.

Pictures, dating back some months, emerged of the pair smoking a shisha pipe and came on the back of a video apparently showing Sterling inhaling laughing gas and seemingly passing out.

But Rodgers sprang to the defence of the players, aged just 20 and 19, insisting they should be given some leeway to make mistakes.

“I spoke to both players and they are fully aware of what has happened – and then we talked about football,” said Rodgers.

“I think both young players are aware of their responsibilities. All you can do is continually educate them.

“It is (about) perspective as well. If you look at Raheem he didn’t do anything illegal.

“It was something he will look back on in years to come and it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do.

“But for me it is all about the welfare of the two young players; making them aware of the health issues which come with that and also about the professionalism and what they are representing.

“They will make mistakes, whether it is those two or other young players.

“In the main young footballers are good people, they do a lot of things which go unnoticed. Sometimes they get caught out but that is just youth and learning.”

Sterling will start Liverpool’s FA Cup semi-final against Aston Villa tomorrow but Ibe is cup-tied having previously played in the competition while on loan at Derby.

Defender Martin Skrtel will return after a three-match suspension but there is greater debate over whether captain Steven Gerrard, also returning from a ban but with just 27 minutes of football behind him since February 10 because of injury, should start.

The 34-year-old was given a run-out in a practice match earlier this week and Rodgers confirmed the midfielder, whose last match for the club before he leaves for Los Angeles Galaxy could potentially be the FA Cup final on May 30, is fit.

“Steven is fine. The most important thing is his availability. He is a special footballer and Wembley is somewhere he knows very well.

“Whether he plays or doesn’t play he will be an important member of the squad for us on the day.”

Striker Daniel Sturridge is a major doubt with a hip injury which forced him to miss Monday’s win over Newcastle.

“We will give Dan every possibility to be fit and we will see how he is tomorrow and take it from there,” said Rodgers.

Meanwhile Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet insists choosing between an FA Cup victory and finishing in the top four would be like preferring one of his parents over the other.

With the Reds in semi-final action against Aston Villa on Sunday Brendan Rodgers’ side could see the gap between themselves and fourth place – currently occupied by Manchester City – grow.

It has been suggested the cup competition can save their season, in-form playmaker Philippe Coutinho even suggested as much ahead of their quarter-final replay at Blackburn last week, but Mignolet does not see any reason why they should prioritise one over the other at the moment.

“The next game is the FA Cup semi-final so the focus is on that but you don’t really choose between your mum and dad so we still have two things to play for and we will try to do that from now until the end of the season,” said the Belgium international.

“We want to do both – let’s hope we can do both. We have the FA Cup and league still to play for and we want to do well in every single game.”

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