Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers feels Raheem Sterling is fully deserving of a place in the senior England squad at the moment.

Coach Roy Hodgson gave Sterling 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.

Sterling has been omitted from the squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland after being named as part of the England Under-21s squad for their double-header with Serbia.

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 be handled the right way.

Speaking at a press conference to preview tonight'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."

Sterling is one of a clutch of youngsters who have impressed for the Reds this season, with 19-year-old defender Andre Wisdom and 18-year-old forward Suso also catching the eye.

There has been talk of the trio being rewarded with new contracts and asked about the matter, Rodgers said: "I always believe you have to earn it, but there is no doubt that these boys have done well.

"It is something that we will look at over the next few months. There have been discussions between the club and representatives, but it is at an early stage.''

Liverpool have midfielder Jonjo Shelvey back available for the game.

Shelvey, who scored twice as a substitute in the Reds' Group A opener against Young Boys a fortnight ago, is serving a domestic suspension following his sending off in the Barclays 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.

The Reds won their opening game 5-3, while their opponents Udinese were held to a draw by Russians Anzhi Makhachkala.

Udinese forward and captain Antonio Di Natale is relishing the chance to play at Anfield.

"It is fantastic, even just looking at the stadium is great,'' he said.

"We have seen images and looked at a DVD to see what the atmosphere is like. Perhaps for me, this will be the last chance I am going to get to play in a stadium like this, we have a lot of young players coming through.

"I've always wanted to play here and playing these games for me now is a bit like playing in a final, or like the European Championship over the summer."