Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers accepts captain Steven Gerrard is no longer the driving force he was but insists it is wrong to write him off entirely.
And despite Gerrard’s former team-mate Jamie Carragher suggesting it was time for the 34-year-old to be released from the defensive role which he believes he is unsuitable for, Rodgers has no intention of doing so.
Gerrard’s performances have drawn much criticism this season but the Liverpool boss defended himself against accusations he has continued to select the ex-England midfielder on reputation alone.
“I judge Steven on merit. I think the spotlight he has been under is incredible. Everything for us is based around being a team,” said Rodgers.
“If people are expecting Steven Gerrard to be the type of player he was 10 years ago that is sadly not the case.
“He has slowly been adapting to a position I felt he could benefit the team but a player who was scoring 15 goals a season and making 13 or 14 assists…..he is not that type of player (any more).
“It is hugely unfair he is judged at that level. He is a wonderful player and I can quite safely say he is the best player I have worked with in terms of footballing mentality and the loyalty he has shown to this club is without question.
“I don’t deal so much in (being) sentimental. There is nothing sentimental in me picking Steven Gerrard.
“He is coming towards the latter part of his career but he still has a valuable contribution to make.
“He can play three games in a week but he won’t be able to play it to the level he would like or I would like and it is my job to manage that.”
That last comment suggests Rodgers is prepared to rest his captain against Ludogorets in Sofia on Wednesday, which would be a second successive Champions League benching for the midfielder having come on for the final 20 minutes against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu last time out.
Provisional squad: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno, Gerrard, Can, Henderson, Allen, Sterling, Lambert, Lallana, Jones, Manquillo, Toure, Enrique, Lucas, Markovic, Coutinho, Borini.