Wednesday 22 November 2017

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has very high praise for Irish defender Daniel Cleary

Dubliner Daniel Cleary will be hoping to take his progress at Liverpool a stage further if he gets to play against Sion
Dubliner Daniel Cleary will be hoping to take his progress at Liverpool a stage further if he gets to play against Sion

John Fallon

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has heaped praise on Irish youngster Daniel Cleary but admitted that the 19-year-old's breakthrough will probably occur away from Anfield on loan.

The Dubliner, included in the Reds' squad for tonight's Europa League tie at home to Sion after making the bench for last week's trip to Bordeaux, impressed Rodgers during the first-team's pre-season tour of Malaysia and Australia.

In a week the dearth of young Irish Premier League talent has been magnified by the decision of Jack Grealish to jump ship to England, Cleary's accent provides at least some encouragement.

"Daniel will be in around the squad," said Rodgers of the defender, who joined the club from Crumlin United at 15-year-old.

"He a very good player and he is going to have a very good career in the game. He is very committed.

"I have seen developments in all aspects of his play over the last couple of years. I've seen him improve.

"Of course, we have played young players but I also respect that there are other players that need games as well and it is a competition that we want to get the victory in.

"I'm sure if Daniel doesn't get the game-time here at the moment there will probably be a loan period for him. But in the meantime he is playing in our U-21 side and doing very well."

Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal yesterday

Meanwhile, Rodgers is happy for Daniel Sturridge to join up with England next week - but he will tell the Football Association that the striker is not ready to play in both the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania.

Roy Hodgson names his England squad for the final two qualification games today.

When fit, Sturridge has been a key part of Hodgson's plans, and he scored twice on his first start of the season against Aston Villa last weekend.

Sturridge will not be involved in tonight's Europa League tie, with the Merseyside derby at Everton looming on Sunday.

Rodgers said he would have no issue with the England manager if he picked the 26-year-old but given he has just come back from a five-month injury lay-off, he feels his striker must be used sparingly.

England play Estonia at Wembley on October 9 before travelling to Lithuania three days later, and Rodgers feels it would be too much to ask Sturridge to play in both.

"Not at the moment, no," Rodgers said when asked if Sturridge could play twice in four days.

Rodgers and Hodgson have had their differences over the last year. The Liverpool manager was annoyed with Hodgson for revealing that Raheem Sterling said he was too tired to start the reverse fixture against Estonia this time last year.

And Rodgers blamed the England coaching staff for the thigh injury that Sturridge suffered while on international duty last September.

He plans to speak to Hodgson about Sturridge's fitness this week before England train at St George's Park next Tuesday.

"The guys with England are intelligent enough and will understand, and I am sure at some point we will have a conversation before they meet up," Rodgers said.

"In Daniel's case it is probably worth me noting to the FA where he is at in this period of his fitness. He is a player who is coming back and Roy and his staff are intelligent enough to see that and I am sure him being in the squad will be managed accordingly."

On the back of struggles by Chelsea and Arsenal this week, Rodgers believes that the Premier League can do more to help English clubs maximise their potential in Europe.

Christian Benteke scores against Manchester United

The poor performances at the start of the Champions League campaign this season have raised the possibility of England losing one of its four places in Uefa's flagship tournament.

Rodgers said that other countries enabled more preparation time for fixtures.

He said: "I think they (Premier League) could do more to support the teams in Europe. It happens with the other federations and the other countries. They help.

"It doesn't happen in this country. The physicality of this league is like no other - the intensity, how it is played, the demand on players.

"In other countries, some of the big teams can change five, six, seven players and still win the game and field a real strong team for the next game. It all adds up for it being difficult for the Premier League teams."

Due to Sturridge's absence, Divock Origi is likely to get a rare start up front tonight. Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren are all injury absences.

Liverpool v Sion, Live, Setanta Sports 1, 8.05

Irish Independent

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