Sunday 28 December 2014

Sturridge set for debut as Suarez and Gerrard rest

Chris Bascombe

Published 05/01/2013 | 05:00

Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool will treat non-league Mansfield like Manchester United in their English FA Cup tie tomorrow – even though he is likely to leave Steven Gerrard and top scorer Luis Suarez out of his starting line-up.

"We have prepared exactly the same for Mansfield as we would Manchester United," Rodgers said. "I don't think you can under-prepare because that's when it can shoot you in the foot.

"They are a team that play 4-4-1-1, they're direct, they have a centre-half that throws it into the box a mile. They sit ninth in the league, four points off a play-off position. Our homework has been complete so we won't underestimate them."

Torrential rain has raised concern about the state of the surface at Field Mill, but Rodgers said there would be no excuses if there was a shock result. "We have to adapt to the conditions," he added.

New signing Daniel Sturridge (below) will be under the microscope straight away if he starts in place of Suarez, who has scored four goals in his last two matches to take his tally to 18 for the season, which includes 15 in 20 league matches.

Rodgers admitted that Suarez wants to play but, with the Uruguay international pivotal to Liverpool's chances of making a bid to finish in the top four, a trip to play a non-league club on a less-than-perfect pitch seems the perfect opportunity to give him a rest.

"Every game is a massive game, whether it is Mansfield away or Manchester United away," said Rodgers.

"Luis is a player who loves playing and that is why he is here – to play games and score goals.

"I speak a lot with him and I know from working with him he wants to play. He is an ultimate professional. There are no worries with him.

"But he's coming off the back of a real busy period where he's given everything in the games and scored goals.

"We have players coming back now, which is great, and having Daniel come through the door and Fabio Borini returning from injury (soon) will be great for us. We will pick a team which will hopefully win the game."

fitness

It remains to be seen when Sturridge will be given his bow after moving to Anfield this week on a long-term deal, with Rodgers saying: "Daniel is still catching up a bit on his fitness because he has been out for a period of time.

"He's looked good in the couple of sessions we've had, but I'm not looking to rush Daniel into anything.

"He is not under big pressure to come in and perform straight away, in particular because of the form of the team at the moment."

Sturridge's arrival from Chelsea is likely to see the 23-year-old given a chance to play the central striker role he craves.

That has been occupied brilliantly by Suarez so far but Rodgers does not see there being a conflict of interests or an impact on the Uruguayan's blistering form in front of goal.

"I certainly didn't bring in Daniel to affect anyone, it was to come in and make us better," he added.

"The types of players we are trying to bring in are those who are tactically flexible.

"Daniel can play off the right, left or central and that is exactly the same for Luis Suarez – and wherever he plays he gets goals. They are the types of players we want, players who are fluent in positions.

"We understand every player will have his best position, but I didn't bring in any players to hinder us and Daniel will be a great addition to the squad and I am sure he will prove that.

"There is a difference between Luis and Daniel. Luis has scored goals but he is a different type of player and we have missed a presence always in the box.

"Luis has proven he is a world-class operator but for us it is about the team. When he didn't play against West Ham (because of suspension) others stepped up to the plate and we scored three that day.

"It is about building a group which is competitive in training and hopefully that will spill onto the field."

Liverpool finally got Joe Cole's reported £100,000-a-week salary off the wage bill when the midfielder completed his move to former club West Ham.

However, it came at a price as the club had to negotiate a settlement to cover the remainder of his contract and, even with the wage bill a little lighter, Rodgers does not yet know whether that will allow him more flexibility in the current transfer window.

"I think for both parties it was the best solution. It hasn't quite worked out for Joe here," said the Reds boss.

"He is 31, has had the career he's had so he doesn't want to be sitting on the bench at Liverpool.

"He hasn't been an ounce of a problem for me at all and I wish him well because it's been a difficult period for him professionally and personally. I am sure he will go there and do very well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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