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 By PA Sport

Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, Jordon Ibe defended by Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has called for a sense of perspective after a week when youngsters Raheem Sterling and Jordon Ibe have come under scrutiny for off-field activities.

Pictures, dating back some months, emerged of the pair smoking a shisha pipe and came on the back of a video apparently showing Sterling inhaling nitrous oxide and seemingly passing out.

However, Rodgers sprang to the defence of his players, insisting they should be given some leeway to make mistakes.

"I spoke to both players and they are fully aware of what has happened -- and then we talked about football,'' Rodgers told a news conference. "I think both young players are aware of their responsibilities. All you can do is continually educate them.

"It is [about] perspective as well. If you look at Raheem he didn't do anything illegal. It was something he will look back on in years to come and it probably wasn't the wisest thing to do.

"But for me, it is all about the welfare of the two young players; making them aware of the health issues which come with that and also about the professionalism and what they are representing.

"They will make mistakes, whether it is those two or other young players. In the main, young footballers are good people -- they do a lot of things which go unnoticed. Sometimes they get caught out but that is just youth and learning.

"We talk of players as being role models but I think the best role models in your life are parents and guardians -- but we are not perfect either, we make mistakes. We learn and if we have to do that when we are older in life then certainly young players will do that and they need support in that.''

Sterling will start Liverpool's FA Cup semifinal against Aston Villa on Sunday, but Ibe is cup-tied having previously played in the competition this season while on loan at Derby.

Martin Skrtel will return after a three-match suspension but there is greater debate over whether captain Steven Gerrard, also returning from a ban but with just 27 minutes of football under his belt since Feb. 10 because of injury, should start.

Like he did previously with Luis Suarez, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has proved effective in dealing with Raheem Sterling's off-the-field issues.
Brendan Rodgers has played down the incidents involving Raheem Sterling.

The 34-year-old was given a run-out in a practice match earlier this week and Rodgers confirmed the midfielder, whose last match for the club before he leaves for LA Galaxy could potentially be the FA Cup final on May 30, is fit.

"He is definitely ready. We played a behind-closed-doors game here on Monday in which he and a few of the other players who have been out played in,'' Rodgers said.

"Steven is fine. The most important thing is his availability. He is a special footballer and Wembley is somewhere he knows very well. Whether he plays or doesn't play, he will be an important member of the squad for us on the day.

"Throughout his time he has been an incredible player who, in the main, has always produced big goals and big moments in the big games.''

Daniel Sturridge, meanwhile, is a major doubt with a hip injury which forced him to miss Monday's 2-0 win over Newcastle and Rodgers added: "We will give Dan every possibility to be fit and we will see how he is tomorrow and take it from there."


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