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Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 16:26 UK

Reds to nurse Gerrard over run-in

Steven Gerrard
Gerrard may not be risked from the start against Blackburn

Liverpool midfielder Gerrard has developed a groin problem which means he will have to be carefully managed through the remainder of the season.

He is very unlikely to start both Saturday's Premier League clash with Blackburn and in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final at Chelsea.

Boss Rafael Benitez said: "We were aware of the injury before the first leg against Chelsea on Wednesday.

"It is not easy for him to play two games in four days with the injury."

We have been talking about the fitness of players like Steven for a long time, do we have rotation or do we keep our key players on the pitch?

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez

As Liverpool continue their chase for the title, and survival in Europe, it is clear their 28-year-old midfield maestro will not be available for every minute of every match.

What was originally viewed as a relatively minor thigh injury sustained at Anfield in the Champions League first-leg 3-1 defeat is being viewed altogether more seriously.

"The decision I have to make is whether I use him against Blackburn or Chelsea," said Benitez.

"If we do play him against Blackburn it does not mean we are writing off the Champions League. But we must approach each game on its merits.

606: DEBATE
gonzoluv

"If he feels he can play, then he will and we will assess the situation afterwards. Anything more could be a risk. Maybe we could keep him on the bench and use him if we need to?

"After Chelsea we have a complete week before our next game because the Arsenal home game is the following Tuesday.

"After that, even if we qualify and have a Champions League semi-final, that is only two more games. We will be playing virtually one game a week and that makes it easier to manage the situation regarding Steven's fitness.

"I have spoken with Steven and we will do the same on Saturday along with the doctor. If he breaks down now we could lose him for two or three weeks and that would be a serious blow."

Benitez, much criticised in the past for his squad rotation policy, explained the dilemma he was in.

"We have been talking about the fitness of players like Steven for a long time, do we have rotation or do we keep our key players on the pitch?

"We have had that problem with Fernando Torres and now Gerrard."

He said his team was not prioritising the Premier League over the Champions League, but added: "We play Blackburn first and that obviously is what we are concentrating on. After that it will be Chelsea.

"We will try our best at Chelsea, it is not over yet, but we want to be top of the table after our game with Blackburn because that will put pressure on Manchester United."



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see also
Liverpool v Blackburn
10 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Liverpool 1-3 Chelsea
08 Apr 09 |  Europe
Fulham 0-1 Liverpool
04 Apr 09 |  Premier League
Gerrard agrees new Liverpool deal
03 Apr 09 |  Liverpool
Gerrard could make early return
18 Feb 09 |  Liverpool


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