Liverpool's youngsters set for Udinese test
LONDON (AP) — Liverpool is relying on its youngsters to get the club through to the knockout stage of the Europa League.
On current evidence, it could well be a successful policy.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers saw a team comprising youngsters and fringe players begin the group-stage campaign with a pulsating 5-3 win at Swiss side Young Boys two weeks ago.
So happy has Rodgers been with the development of young players such as Spanish playmaker Jesus Fernandez Saez, right back Andre Wisdom and winger Raheem Sterling that he has included them for Premier League games, too.
Next for the youngsters is Udinese at Anfield, the standout match of 24 in the Europa League on Thursday.
"They have played with no fear, but I always say young players will run through a barbed wire fence for you. You have seen that in games," Rodgers said. "For me, status does not matter. It is what you are like as a player. It doesn't matter how much money you have come for. I will play a 17-year-old if he fights and he has quality."
Of all the youngsters, Sterling's progress has been most impressive.
Seen as simply a star of the future after some promising substitute appearances under Kenny Dalglish last season, he has played in every league game so far under Rodgers and has even earned a call-up by Roy Hodgson to the England squad.
Fernandez Saez, commonly known as "Suso," and Wisdom — a scorer against the Swiss club Young Boys — are the latest to graduate to the senior team, making their first league starts in the 5-2 thrashing of Norwich on Saturday. That was Liverpool's first league win of the season after the club's worst start to a campaign in more than a century.
"I've been very, very pleased by the impact they've made," Rodgers said.
Leading players such as Luis Suarez and Steve Gerrard are likely to be rested for Thursday's match against a Udinese side which is also languishing near the bottom of the domestic standings.
A 0-0 home draw to Genoa left Udinese fifth from last in Serie A, with coach Francesco Guidolin leaving out star striker and captain Antonio Di Natale for disciplinary reasons.