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Gerrard ready for final farewell

Published 23/05/2015

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, pictured right, hopes for a more private future when it comes to Raheem Sterling's contract discussions
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, pictured right, hopes for a more private future when it comes to Raheem Sterling's contract discussions

Headlines about Raheem Sterling's contract issues and the prospect of Liverpool losing a star player this summer have deflected attention from the departure of one of the club's true greats.

There was, quite correctly, great fanfare surrounding Steven Gerrard's final match at Anfield last week but Sunday's trip to Stoke will be the midfielder's 710th and final appearance for the Reds.

Having got through the emotionally-charged send-off in front of his home fans, manager Brendan Rodgers has no doubts about the 34-year-old's ability to handle his final curtain call at the Britannia Stadium.

"He'll be very able," said the Reds boss.

"I'm sure for Steven it's been a huge relief. Leading into your last game at Anfield, which has been his home for 17 years, there was probably a whole load of emotion.

"Unfortunately our performance level wasn't what we expected (they suffered a 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace) but I think the crowd and the supporters recognised the moment and gave him a great send-off.

"So I'm sure for him it's a huge sigh of relief and he has worked well this week concentrating on Sunday's game."

A disappointing campaign will come to an end with Liverpool playing for nothing more than the security of fifth place and a Europa League spot.

It will be of little consolation after the minimum target set in pre-season was a top-four slot.

"I've said at the beginning of the season (the aim) is to finish as high as we possibly can," said Rodgers.

"That is the aim for the game. Our season doesn't finish until the whistle blows on Sunday.

"It'll be a tough game for us away at Stoke but we go there and we want to finish the season strongly.

"I always believe it's a good sign of the team if they can keep going to the very end and that'll be our ambition against Stoke."

While the contract dispute with Sterling is likely to rumble on throughout the summer the club were at least able to tie down another promising youngster to a long-term deal this week.

Jordon Ibe, a year younger than Sterling, enjoyed his first-team breakthrough in the second half of the season after returning from a loan spell at Derby.

He is hoping to make greater strides next season.

"To be honest, the number-one target for me is to get goals and try to stay in the team. They're the two main goals for me," he told LFCTV.

"I need to keep playing well, getting goals and making the gaffer happy. I've got to help the team win games and then hopefully I can secure it (my place) in the new season.

"To win medals - that's the number one thing for me. I want to help us get back into the Champions League and try to win that one day.

"We were close last year to the league title, so that is another aim - as well as the FA Cup."

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