England manager hints that Liverpool starlet will start against Italy

Raheem Sterling

England manager Roy Hodgson has dropped a big hint that Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling will start against Italy in a week's time.

England face Cesare Prandelli's Italy in Manaus next Saturday night, but the team are currently going through a number of pre-World Cup friendlies. After a win and a draw against Peru and Ecuador respectively, players in Hodgson's 23-man squad are vying for places in the starting XI.

One of those players is Liverpool's Sterling, who enjoyed a superb season with the Reds, racking up nine goals and five assists for Brendan Rodgers' men. The 19-year-old is one of the star youngsters in English football, and he was expected to make an impact at the World Cup - even if as a substitute.

However, his cameo against Ecuador in midweek couldn't have gone much worse, as the winger was sent off for a rash challenge on Manchester United's Antonio Valencia, diminishing the possibility of him impressing in a match.

Yet manager Hodgson has praised the former QPR trainee for not only his promising ability, but also for his mentality having responded in training after the red card incident just days ago.

"He's good enough to face Italy," Hodgson said. "He's going to cause a lot of teams some serious damage. He really is an exceptional player."

"He was absolutely gutted to be sent off, as were we, but he doesn't seem to have taken it to heart", he continued. "The most important thing is he's still making me aware he's a player who can inflict an awful lot of damage on the opposition. His reaction to the red card has been excellent. He was unstoppable at times in training, some of the things he did out there were breathtaking and he's not going to lose any fitness."

"The dilemma I have is that I have more than 11 players capable of taking the field against Italy but I don't need to see a performance from Raheem on the field to know he's capable of playing in the Italy game if selected," added the former Liverpool boss.

If Sterling does start, then it could be at the expense of Manchester United's Danny Welbeck, who has been continuously played out of position on the wing for England, whereas playing a trio of Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney and Sterling behind Daniel Sturridge would offer England much better balance.

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