Raheem Sterling’s impact for Liverpool this season has been highly impressive, but the young winger desperately needed a break from first-team duties. Signs of fatigue were creeping into Sterling’s game in recent weeks, while the psychological impact of being thrust into the media limelight can’t be underestimated, especially for a youngster that has shown signs of indiscipline. Constant speculation about his new contract didn’t help matters.
But now, Sterling is fresh having been only a substitute in the matches against Fulham and Aston Villa, and his new contract was signed last week. Brendan Rodgers will want to rotate his side after the disappointment against Stoke on Boxing Day, and Sterling is the obvious player to come into the side, providing a burst of pace and energy on the flank.
But if Sterling plays, which winger should Rodgers drop? Stewart Downing was quiet against Stoke, but was genuinely excellent against Fulham, and deserves a run in the side. Suso, meanwhile, was relatively quiet in both matches, and like Sterling, shouldn’t be overplayed at this early stage of his career. Rodgers has been determined to protect the young Spaniard: he’s started eight matches but hasn’t completed the 90 minutes in any, and will probably be rested against QPR.
Sterling and Downing can both play on either flank, but the former should get plenty of joy against QPR left-back Armand Traore, who is talented technically but woeful in a position sense, leaving too much space between himself and the centre-backs. Sterling’s decision-marking isn’t yet up to the required standard, but if he skips past Traore, he’ll have plenty of time to decide what to do next.
This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.