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Europa League: Rodgers backs Liverpool's Raheem Sterling for England

Winger set to face Italian side Udinese, while champions Atletico Madrid welcome Czech side Viktoria Plzen.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 24: Raheem Sterling of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Wigan Athletic at Anfield on March 24, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Raheem Sterling
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 24: Raheem Sterling of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Wigan Athletic at Anfield on March 24, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Raheem Sterling

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers feels Raheem Sterling is fully deserving of a place in the senior England squad and is confident the 17-year-old winger will be well "looked after" if he receives another call-up.

Reports had suggested Three Lions coach Roy Hodgson was looking to retain Sterling for this month's 2014 World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland after giving the youngster his first taste of the senior set-up by bringing him in ahead of last month's 1-1 draw with Ukraine, a game for which he ended up being an unused substitute.

The fact Sterling was named as part of the England Under 21 squad for their double-header with Serbia would appear to suggest he will not figure in Hodgson's group this time.

However, Rodgers has no doubt Sterling's performances for Liverpool this season have merited further involvement with the senior national squad, and has no concerns that if that does come about, he will not be handled the right way.

Speaking at a press conference to preview Liverpool's Europa League Group A home clash with Udinese, Rodgers said: "I'm always one for young players.

"Raheem has been brilliant. He is a real good kid who has stepped into the team and done exceptionally well.

"So in terms of whether he deserves a place [in the senior England squad], then of course - in terms of his performance level, he has been outstanding.

"Thankfully we have an England manager who has many, many years of experience and a wonderful group of players, so if he did get called up, he would be looked after I'm sure.

"I think with young players, we have seen so many times in this country top talents at 17 and 18 who have too much too young and pressure forced on to them too early.

"By the time they get to 21 or 22 everyone has forgotten about them. But Roy is a very experienced manager and I'm sure when he feels the time is right for him to come in and make an impact, he will do that."

Liverpool have midfielder Jonjo Shelvey back available for the game against the Italian Serie A club.

Shelvey, who scored twice as a substitute in the Reds' Group A opener against Young Boys a two weeks ago, is serving a domestic suspension following his sending off in the Premier League defeat to Manchester United, but is still able to play in European matches.

Joe Cole could make his first-team return after a hamstring injury, but the contest looks to have come too soon for Jose Enrique (knee), while Martin Kelly (knee) and Lucas Leiva (thigh) remain sidelined.

In Group D, midfielder Yohan Cabaye has urged Newcastle United to use the Europa League as a stepping stone toward sustained success after he did just that at Lille.

The 26-year-old Frenchman and his teammates will line up against Bordeaux at the Sports Direct Arena in the toughest test yet of their rediscovered European credentials.

Cabaye left behind Champions League football when he agreed to join the Magpies for a bargain £4.8 million (Dh28.3m) last summer after helping Lille claim the domestic league and cup double.

Cabaye said: "With Lille, we played for three or four years in the Europa League, and I think that competition helped us to win the French title and the French cup.

"It's important to play 100 per cent in this competition to get more experience for the future."

He added: "We know Bordeaux are a good team, but we are a good team as well, so we have to win the game to have a winning mentality."

Bordeaux coach Francis Gillot has admitted he does not know which Newcastle team his side will face.

Magpies counterpart Alan Pardew has made wholesale changes in the competition to date this season, and Gillot is not sure what to expect.

He said: "Newcastle essentially have two teams: they have a team that plays in the league, and then they have a team that plays in the League Cup and the Europa League, so it's very difficult for us to know which side they are going to name tomorrow.

"It's very difficult, therefore, to explain to my players, how they are going to play tactically. That's why we are going to focus on ourselves."

Full-back Danny Simpson's return from a hamstring injury could hardly be better-timed for Newcastle, who have seen Steven Taylor join Fabricio Coloccini on the casualty list to spark something of a defensive crisis.

Viktoria Plzen defender David Limbersky believes his side will be facing one of the top-10 teams in the world when they take on Atletico Madrid.

Both clubs will put their 100 per cent starts in Group B on the line at the Vicente Calderon and Limbersky is more than aware of what Plzen are up against.

Not only have Atletico got a great recent record in the Europa League, winning it in 2010 and again last season, but they have enjoyed a flying start to the current campaign, picking up 16 from a possible 18 points to sit second in the Primera Liga, while also thrashing Champions League winners Chelsea 4-1 in the Uefa Super Cup.

Limbersky said on www.fotbalportal.cz: "I think they are one of the 10 best teams in the world, so we are expecting great opponents. In addition to that they are also in excellent form, where they have only drawn once in seven rounds in the league."

Fixtures

Group A

Anzhi Makhachkala v Young Boys, 8pm

Liverpool v Udinese, 11.05pm

Group B

Academica v Hapoel Tel-Aviv, 11.05pm

Atletico Madrid v Plzen, 11.05pm

Group C

Borussia Monchengladbach v Fenerbahce, 11.05pm

Marseille v AEL Limassol, 11.05pm

Group D

Club Bruges v Maritimo, 11.05pm

Newcastle v Bordeaux, 11.05pm

Group E

Molde v Stuttgart, 11.05pm

Steaua Bucharet v Copenhagen, 11.05pm

Group F

AIK Solna v Dnipro, 11.05pm

PSV Eindhoven v Napoli, 11.05pm

Group G

Basel v Genk, 9pm

Video Fehervar v Sporting, 9pm

Group H

Neftchi v Inter Milan, 8pm

Rubin Kazan v Partizan Belgrade, 8pm

Group I

Hapoel Kiryat Shmona v Lyon, 9pm

Sparta Prague v Athletic Bilbao, 9pm

Group J

Lazio v NK Maribor, 9pm

Panathinaikos v Tottenham, 9pm

Group K

Metallist Kharkiv v Rapid Vienna, 9pm

Rosenborg v Bayer Leverkusen, 9pm

Group L

Hannover 96 v Levante, 9pm

Helsingborgs v Twente, 9pm

* Press Association