Liverpool legend John Aldridge believes Brendan Rodgers’ decision to give Raheem Sterling a break last week could prove to be a masterstroke.
Writing in his column for the Liverpool Echo, the former striker admits he was concerned when he heard the news that the Reds star would be unavailable for the trip to Sunderland but, after a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light, thinks it was a move which could benefit the team in the long run.
“I must admit I was a bit concerned when I heard Raheem Sterling had been given a few days off and would not be playing against Sunderland,” he wrote.
“I could see the logic in giving him a rest, because he has played a lot of football at a very young age. But I was worried that Liverpool wouldn’t be able to cope without him, especially as his break coincided with Adam Lallana’s injury. I thought they may have waited until Lallana was back before thinking about letting him go.
“But it went well. Two good away wins in the bag, and now Sterling comes back for the Villa game with renewed energy and vigour.
“You never know, it could yet prove to be a masterstroke by Brendan Rodgers.”
Sterling had played more minutes than any other outfield Premier League player this term prior to heading off to Jamaica for some mid-season respite, having made 28 top-flight appearances for a total of 1,713 minutes.
The 20-year-old came under criticism in October when he was left on the bench for England’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Estonia after claiming he was tired but, despite risking further backlash, Rodgers told the BBC after Saturday’s win that he had “always planned” to give him a break.
"For me, it was the right thing to do for Raheem," the Northern Irishman said. "He's a very talented young player and we ask a lot of him.
"He's one of those little robust players but he's played a lot of football, not just this season but over a couple of years since he's come into the team. Internationally as well, there's been a big demand on him.
"Of course, as a manager you can absolutely maximise everything out but when you get to the last 10 games of the season he might be running on empty."