Liverpool v FC Sion
Tonight: Anfield, 8.05pm
Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)
TV: BT Sport Europe, Setanta Sports 1
Betting: Liverpool 8/15 Sion 3/1 Draw 5/1 Andrew Horgan
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has praised defender Daniel Cleary for his recent improvement but has hinted that he may be sent out on loan to gain regular first-team football.
The Republic of Ireland youth international became the first Irish player since Robbie Keane in 2008 to feature in the Liverpool first team squad for their Europa League match against Bordeaux last month.
The Dublin native, who also travelled with the club on their pre-season tour to Thailand, Australia, and Malaysia during the summer, trained with the squad ahead of tonight’s game against FC Sion at Anfield.
And speaking to the Irish Examiner ahead of that game, the Reds boss admitted he has been pleased with Cleary’s progress.
“Daniel is a very good player and he’s going to have a good career in the game,” enthused Rodgers. “He is very committed and I have seen developments in his game in my time here.
“Daniel will be in and around the squad, of course we have played young players but we also respect that there are other players who need games as well and it’s a competition that we want to get the victory in.”
The 19-year-old defender has yet to make his senior debut for the Merseyside giants and the former Swansea City boss has suggested that whilst he has impressed with the U21 squad, he may be sent out on loan in the near future to gain experience.
“I have seen him improve so I’m sure if he doesn’t get the game time here at this moment there will probably be a loan period for him but then he is also with the under 21s and playing very well there,” added Rodgers.
Meanwhile, Rodgers has called on the England national team to be intelligent with the use of returning striker Daniel Sturridge. Roy Hodgson is set to announce his England squad today ahead of the final two games of its Euro 2016 qualifying group, a group which they have already won.
Sturridge, who will not feature in the Liverpool squad to face FC Sion, has recently recovered from a nightmare spell of injuries.
And whilst Rodgers admitted there may be a temptation to rush the 26-year-old back into the England set-up following his brace against Aston Villa last weekend, he hopes that they will take precautions.
“Daniel has worked very, very hard and has come back ahead of schedule but we just need to make sure that we won’t break him at this stage,” declared Rodgers.
“The guys with England are intelligent enough and they are understanding, I’m sure at some point we will have a conversation before they meet up.
“I think when the players are away, I let them deal with the highly qualified professionals that work at that level but certainly, with Daniel’s case, I think it’s probably worth me noting to the FA as to where he is at this period of his fitness.”
Sturridge’s absence from the squad is likely to give youngster Divock Origi another chance up front.
The Belgium international, a £10million signing last year, has struggled for game time having returned from a season on loan at former club Lille and is still looking for his maiden Reds goal.
“Divock will be judged on goals and games but he hasn’t really played much but he understands where he is at coming into such a big club,” said Rodgers.
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