LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez believes Steven Gerrard’s performances for his club over the past week could have been affected by starting both England’s recent European Championship qualifiers.
Despite coming closest to breaking the deadlock in a goalless draw against Birmingham at Anfield on Saturday when he had a shot cleared off the line, Gerrard has struggled to reach his own high standards in the last three games since the international break and has been unable to exert his normal influence over matches.
Gerrard, who suffered a broken toe earlier in the season, played 71 minutes against Israel before going off with cramp and then completed a full 90 minutes against Russia.
Benitez said: “It could be that playing twice for England has had an impact.
“They (the England staff) knew (what I felt about Gerrard playing in both games) but in this situation everyone was talking about how important this situation was for England.
“His national team is England but it is clear that these players cannot play every game for 90 minutes.
“Gerrard was not 100% physically fresh, I don’t mean fit.
“In these kind of games you need to keep the tempo really high and if you play too many games in a row for 90 minutes, especially if you are not fit then normally you have problems.”
Benitez is expected to ring the changes for tomorrow night’s trip to the Madejski Stadium for a Carling Cup third round tie.
He said: “We need to be more precise in front of goal.
“Today okay we have lost two points.”
Match Report – THE SCORE