• Premier League

Gerrard: Sterling can fill Walcott void

ESPN staff
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Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard has tipped club-mate Raheem Sterling to join him at this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

Sterling has re-established himself as a regular in Brendan Rodgers' side after a dip in form on the field and a difficult time off it. The 19-year-old made his 10th successive Liverpool start on Sunday, and played a key role in a 5-3 Premier League win at Stoke.

He has only one senior England cap, won in a friendly against Sweden in November 2012, but has become a fixture in the Under-21 side. With Arsenal's Theo Walcott ruled out of the World Cup with cruciate knee ligament damage sustained in the FA Cup third-round win over Tottenham on January 4, Gerrard believes Sterling can step up.

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The Liverpool captain thinks the teenager's display at Stoke is evidence that he is good enough to win a place in Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad.

Gerrard told the Liverpool Echo: "I said to Raheem after the game: 'You keep your performance at that level and you are going to make it very difficult for Roy Hodgson not to take you.'

"Hopefully he can build on the confidence from his recent performances and finish the season really strongly.

"He's in top form at a fantastic time. I'm obviously very disappointed for Theo with his injury but I'm sure Roy Hodgson is looking out for who is going to replace him and Raheem's performances of late have been sensational.

"There's many candidates - Aaron Lennon is playing well, Andros Townsend, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back. But if you are looking at like for like, pace and threat down the wing, someone who can make, score and create, then Raheem has got a fantastic chance."

Sterling won his sole England cap on the back of an impressive start to last season, but his form dropped over the second half of the campaign. He was not helped by a series of off-field distractions, including a court case in which he was cleared of assaulting a former girlfriend.

Earlier this season, Rodgers told Sterling to concentrate on his football, and Gerrard believes that advice has been heeded.

He said: "He's got all the tools to do it. It's up to him now. If you are a full-back, you don't want to play against pace and especially when it's coming at you all the time.

"Raheem keeps going and going, even if he makes a mistake. He's a fit lad who is relentless and he's a team player too.

"Everyone knows Roy Hodgson likes a wide player who can defend as well. He's got everything going for him. Now it's up to him to keep putting in that level of performance.

"You've got to understand his age. He's learning the game. He's got a fantastic manager to help him through that. He's only recently turned 19 and you are going to suffer a dip in form. Who doesn't have a dip at 18 years of age?

"But the mark of a good player and how good any player is going to be is how they come back from that. Can he react? To come back the way he has, he's been one of our most consistent players in the last couple of months. He's been brilliant."

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