MX23RW : Wednesday, September 26 01:32:12

Brendan Rodgers: 'Raheem Sterling being picked on merit'

Rodgers: 'Sterling being picked on merit'
© Reuters
Brendan Rodgers talks up the "pace, personality and quality" of Raheem Sterling, who he believes should start against Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has defended the performances of Raheem Sterling in England's run to the semi-finals of the World Cup, claiming that he is being picked by Gareth Southgate on merit.

The Manchester City attacker squandered a couple of big chances against Sweden last time out, meaning that his wait for an international goal will span 1,007 days by the time the Three Lions face Croatia in the semi-finals.

Some have backed Marcus Rashford for a starting spot in that last-four tie on Wednesday evening in place of Sterling, but Rodgers insists that the 23-year-old - who he managed during their time at Liverpool - is worthy of his place in the side.

Speaking about Sterling and Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson, Rodgers told The Telegraph: "There is a reason every manager they work with picks them. I had a close relationship with Raheem at Liverpool and he is not judged on his performance, for some reason.

"This boy is fantastic. He is a top-class player and knows the areas where he needs to improve - you can see how much he has over the last few years.

"His pace, personality and quality is massive for England. I know football is about opinion, but what these boys are bringing to England is great talent and energy.

"It has not been a World Cup of iconic individuals, it has been a World Cup where team spirit has dominated. Jordan Henderson typifies that. He is really selfless as a player and a guy, always wanting to help those around him. He builds respect around himself."

Former England assistant manager Gary Neville has also hit out at the over-the-top criticism aimed at Sterling.

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Marcus Rashford in action for Manchester United on May 13, 2018
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