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Stoke City v Liverpool: Rodgers keen to move focus away from Sterling

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is turning his attention to on-field matters as his side travel to Stoke City for their final Premier League clash of the season.

The past week has been dominated by talk of Raheem Sterling’s future, with the player reportedly telling the club that he wants to leave.

Sterling was booed by some fans as he picked up Liverpool’s young player of the year award on Tuesday, and his agent, Aidy Ward, subsequently stated his client would “definitely” not be signing a new deal.

In a news conference on Friday, Rodgers said he expected talks over Sterling’s contract to resume, but was quick to shift focus to Sunday’s trip to the Britannia Stadium.

“I’ve said at the beginning of the season that [the aim] is to finish as high as we possibly can,” he said. “That is the aim for the game.

“Our season doesn’t finish until the whistle blows on Sunday so it’ll be a tough game for us away at Stoke but we go there and we want to finish the season strong.

“I always believe it’s a good sign of the team if they can keep going to the very end and that’ll be our ambition against Stoke.”

Sunday marks Steven Gerrard’s final Liverpool appearance, and the midfielder will be desperate to go out on a high after last week’s Anfield farewell finished in an anti-climactic 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.

“I’m sure for Steven it’s been a huge relief. Leading into your last game at Anfield, which has been his home for 17 years, there was probably a whole load of emotion in that last week for him,” Rodgers said.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the result, our performance level wasn’t what we expected, but I think the crowd and the supporters recognised the moment and gave him a great send-off.

“So I’m sure for him it’s a huge sigh of relief and now – which he has – he can work well this week and concentrate on Sunday’s game.”

A win will secure fifth spot for Liverpool, while Stoke are already certain to finish ninth but can improve on what is already a club-record Premier League points haul.

“We want to end the season in the manner that the season has gone as a whole, with a positive outcome,” Stoke manager Mark Hughes said. 

“We have done really well throughout the season and I always like to finish the campaign with a win.

“Liverpool have something riding on the game too; they could drop a couple of places if other results go against them, so they will be here knowing they have a job to do.

“We are ready for it though, and we want to go out there on Sunday and put on a show.”

Mamadou Sakho (hamstring) and Mario Balotelli are concerns for the visitors, while Hughes will recall regular number one Asmir Begovic in place of Jack Butland.

Fri 22 May, 2015
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