AFC Wimbledon – Liverpool Preview: Merseysiders turn attention to FA Cup after Gerrard shock

The 34-year-old has announced he will leave the club at the end of the season, but Brendan Rodgers insists the midfielder’s playing time will not be prioritised

Liverpool turn their attention to Monday’s FA Cup third-round tie with AFC Wimbledon following Steven Gerrard’s decision to leave Anfield at the end of the season.

The 34-year-old has announced that he will move to the MLS at the end of the season after 26 years at Anfield.

All the talk ahead of Monday’s tie has understandably been of Gerrard’s exit and manager Brendan Rodgers insists he is not under pressure to play the midfielder in every game before he leaves at the end of the campaign.

“I’ll always pick what I think is the best team for the games,” the Liverpool boss told reporters.

“Every football player is the same – they want to play every minute of every game, and Steven is no different. He understands where it’s at and the number of games we’ve been playing, and that there might be times that he has to come out of the team.

“There is no change to that – I’ll remain clear on picking the team based on trying to get the best physicality out of the team.”

Wimbledon striker Adebayo Akinfenwa is a lifelong Liverpool supporter, but the 16-stone forward will put any affinity to the Premier League club to one side at Kingsmeadow.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than this. To play against my boyhood team will be the highlight of my career,” said Akinfenwa.

“John Barnes was my idol growing up and he’s the reason I’ve supported Liverpool. I play nothing like him, though!

“I,ve only been to Anfield once, I couldn’t really afford to get up there when I was younger, so on a personal level it would have been nice to have the tie played there. Our best chance to win is to have the game here. We prefer to have it here as a team.”

Liverpool have lost just one of their last 11 games in all competitions, but made a disappointing start to the year by drawing 2-2 with struggling Leicester City on New Year’s Day after being two goals up at half-time.

Gerrard scored both goals from the penalty spot against Nigel Pearson’s side and it remains to be seen if he will feature against Wimbledon or whether Rodgers will rest the 34-year-old.

Dejan Lovren could be recalled to the Liverpool side, while fellow defender Martin Skrtel is available after serving a suspension and Mario Balotelli will be hoping to play some part after he was not even on the bench against Leicester.

Wimbledon, who have won their last two games and sit 11th in League Two, are set to welcome back Sammy Moore after he recovered from illness.

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