Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says Raheem Sterling has come in for some undue criticism this season and compared the Liverpool forward to Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.
Sterling scored twice as Liverpool set up a League Cup semi-final against Chelsea with a 3-1 win at Bournemouth.
And Rodgers believes expectations surrounding the England star may have been a little too lofty at the start of this season.
“He has got a wee bit of stick over the last while or so, which I find incredible,” Rodgers told Sky Sports. “He has been outstanding for us.
“Last season, he was a young kid at 18 or 19 years of age, playing up top with some world class players. This season, he hasn’t got that. This is the reality and a lot of focus has been on him.
“He has not scored the goals that maybe people expect of him, but that’s not what I expect. I expect him to create goals and score goals over the course of the season.
“You see him tonight in the strikers role and we want to see him getting between people and not get tackled. Spin in behind and his pace and dribbling ability is there to see.”
Rodgers deployed Sterling in a central striking role at Bournemouth, as he opted to leave Rickie Lambert on the bench and the Liverpool boss believes it is a position the youngster can thrive in.
“He can play across the front line,” he continued. “His best position is on the left, dipping inside, making runs in behind, creating one-on-ones. I put him in the position because I believe he can play in it. He played there in the youth team at Liverpool and he has the quality to do it.
“His contract situation is nothing to do with him. His representatives are the ones working with the club.
“He is, as you can see, happy and enjoying his football. At Old Trafford he was unfortunate not to score and in that role he plays you think of Alexis Sanchez when he plays for Arsenal.
“He is not an out-and-out striker but his speed in front of the back four and behind them causes problems and you’ve seen that with him here, he can get it, turn and go at defenders.