Liverpool can no longer count on 34-year-old captain Steven Gerrard playing in every game, said manager Brendan Rodgers after the 1-0 win over Stoke City yesterday.
The Anfield club marked the 16th anniversary of Gerrard's debut by dropping the midfielder to the bench on the day they celebrated his achievements with a special commemorative programme.
"I told him yesterday he wasn't playing, it was just to give him a rest," Rodgers told Sky Sports television after 11th-placed Liverpool ended a run of three straight Premier League defeats.
"The reality is at this level with how competitive the squad is, we can't just be relying on Steven in every single game. We have lots of games in a short period of days so we've just made a few changes to freshen up the team.
"Steven has been a fantastic player and still is but at this stage of his career he can't play every game. Steven is an incredible and absolutely phenomenal player and believe it or not an even better man," added Rodgers.
"I wasn't actually aware it was the 16th anniversary of his debut until I walked into the dressing room and saw the programme."
One club man Gerrard, who has lifted one Champions League title, two FA Cups and three League Cups with Liverpool, is still revered by the fans and his introduction in the 75th minute ignited the crowd and provided the momentum for a late push that yielded Glen Johnson's winner.
The former England skipper was replaced as Liverpool captain by Jordan Henderson on Saturday and earlier this month the 24-year-old said his team mate was "the biggest influence on his career".
"I watched him when I was younger and then to go and play and train with him every day was massive for me, and still is now," Henderson explained.
Emre Can, a close-season recruit from Bayer Leverkusen, said: "He is the greatest captain the club have ever had, it's as simple as that". – Reuters, November 30, 2014.