LIVERPOOL, England (AFP) - Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard will play against Preston in Saturday's FA Cup third round tie despite the assault charge hanging over him, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said on Friday.
Gerrard and two other men were charged with actual bodily harm and affray earlier this week following an alleged incident at a Southport nightclub that left the venue's disc jockey needing hospital treatmen for facial injuries.
The England midfielder, who could face a prison sentence, was held by police for several hours before being released on bail, but Benitez has made it clear that Gerrard will lead the Premier League team at Deepdale this weekend.
"He will play in the match - he is ready and is a great professional and it is best for him to be focused on football," Benitez said.
"Steven has been okay, training normally. I am supporting him 100 per cent. The best thing for us is that he is focused on football, training well and he will play.
"Everyone has been supporting him. We know what's going on and it's clear that it's a special situation but we have to support him because we trust him.
"He is a professional and a very, very good one. He will just be thinking about football. Hopefully he will score some goals, play as well as he was before and everyone will be talking about the game.
"I do not believe he will be distracted. He wants to play football and concentrate just on that. He will be thinking about playing well, scoring goals and making sure the club progresses to the next round.
"If we want to help him, the best thing is to train normally and organise things in the same way. And to give him the opportunity to play football."
"He will get that chance at Preston, hopefully by scoring goals he will know how pleased our fans will be. It is the only way to handle things."
Liverpool will also have Spain striker Fernando Torres back for the first time after seven games out with a hamstring injury as Benitez plans to rotate his side for the trip to the Championship club.
"Maybe we will change some players but we'll still have a very good team on the pitch," he said.
"Torres will be in the squad. If we need him he can play. He is not 100 per cent because he hasn't got the match fitness. But he is ready.
"We will try to progress. The FA Cup is a fantastic competition for us so we'll try to progress and go to Wembley if possible.
"It will be difficult. Preston are doing well in the league and we know that to play against Liverpool is always a motivation. We know it will be a classic Cup game."
Benitez hinted he may not add to his squad in the January transfer window even though Liverpool are challenging in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.
"If we need something we will try. But we are in a good position and we'll try to use the players we have now," he added.
Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher believes Liverpool's record of shock early exits from the FA Cup should ensure they have plenty of motivation to beat Preston.
Since winning the competition in 1992 against Sunderland, Liverpool have been eliminated six times by teams from the division below.
"Over the years our record hasn't been that good. We either seem to go all the way and win it, or get knocked out early," Carragher said.
"We're never in the quarter-finals or semi-finals on a regular basis, which is what we should be doing.
"We do that in the Champions League nearly every year and have to start doing it in the FA Cup too."
|Garcia proud of resilient Roma|
|Rio Ferdinand retires from football|
|World Cup allocation to remain unchanged, Blatter confirms|
|Blatter defiant after re-election|
|Barkley break to benefit Everton - Jones|
|Bilic proud of Besiktas achievements following his final game in charge|
|Vietto encourages Atletico bid|
|Di Santo in demand, claims agent|
|Arteta: Arsenal harbour high ambitions for next season|
|Wilmots considering Schalke offer|
|McCall: Rangers need a miracle|
|Sporting Kansas City 4 Dallas 0: Nemeth, Zusi destroy 10-man visitors|
|Geferson replaces Marcelo for Copa America|
|PSG captain Silva in doubt for Coupe de France final|
|Valverde: Bilbao to stick to style in Copa final|
|´Another round of indictments´ expected in FIFA case|
|Youngsters promoted to Australia´s squad to face Kyrgyzstan|
|Disappointed FFA, US Soccer still want change|
|Gutierrez: Ashley abandoned me|
|US senator urges Blatter to release Garcia Report|
|Gutierrez, Taylor released by Newcastle|
|Figo calls on re-elected Blatter to resign after ´dark day´ for football|
|Szczesny blasts father over ´idiotic´ comments|
|Blatter vows to leave ´strong´ FIFA|
|Blatter re-elected as FIFA president|
|BREAKING NEWS: FIFA elections set for second round of voting|
|Atsu wings in for Bournemouth campaign|
|Klopp: Pokal final not about me|
|Clement says Real goodbyes|
|Inter v Empoli: Icardi looking for final flourish|
|BREAKING NEWS: Blatter - I will fix FIFA|
|Northern Ireland v Qatar: O´Neill keen to prepare for Romania test|
|Palestine drop proposal for Israel suspension|
|Suarez will only get better, warns Iniesta|
|Martinez keen to recruit quickly|
|Monk keen to build on successful Swansea campaign|
|Fit-again Suarez set to aid Barca´s treble quest|
|Anonymous ´bomb´ threat received at FIFA Congress|
|Qatar organisers insist World Cup bid met ´highest ethical standards´|
|Wilkinson and Sorensen leave Stoke|
|Blatter: You can´t ask everyone to behave ethically just like that|
|Van Bronckhorst positive about Feyenoord future|
|Australian police to look into FFA-Warner dealings|
|Dardai signs Hertha deal|
|Protester interrupts FIFA Congress|
|Spurs complete Wimmer signing|
|Warner questions charges following release|
|Mexico v Guatemala: Herrera´s men kick off Copa preparations|
|New Zealand no longer supporting Blatter|
|´Post-World Cup trauma´ affected Mertesacker|
|Racing Club 0 Guarani 0 (0-1 agg): Draw sees Paraguayans through|
|Hamburg shocked by Karlsruher attack - Labbadia|
|Serie A Preview: Napoli, Lazio eye Champions League|
|Hodgson will not overstay England welcome|
|Scholes: United must keep Di Maria|
|Leyton Orient appoint Hendon|
|Benteke has a buy-out clause - Sherwood|
|US Soccer will support Prince Ali in FIFA election|
|Dynamo disappointed with officials after City friendly abandoned|
|Calls for Suarez appeal gather momentum|
|Eredvisie Review: Vitesse denied by late Uth goal, NAC Breda boost survival hopes|
|Rangers 1 Motherwell 3: McCall´s men facing uphill struggle|
|Hamburg 1 Karlsruher 1: Bundesliga side escape with draw|
|Blatter vows to lead FIFA clear of trouble as corruption scandal rolls on|
|Bundesliga: Bayern Munich season review - League crown not enough to signal successful campaign|
|Genoa forced to wait for UEFA licence|
|Injured Cardozo out of Paraguay squad|
|CONCACAF provisionally dismisses Webb and Li|
|Klopp: Career highlights of a charismatic coach|
|Verona v Juventus: Ogbonna seeks strong Champions League warm-up|
|FA charges Demetriou over betting breaches|
|Atalanta v Milan: Inzaghi faces last chance to prove worth|
|King joins Bournemouth as QPR rebuild begins|
|Plymouth part ways with Sheridan|
|Hernandez banned for three matches|
|Chelsea star Fabregas has nose surgery|
|Blatter: More bad news may follow|
|Galliani hopeful over Ancelotti deal|
|Frontzeck to continue as Hannover coach|
|Tremmel released as Tate waves goodbye to Swansea|
|Arsenal v Aston Villa: Sherwood out to upset holders|
|UEFA open to boycott of World Cup - Platini|
|Porto activate release clause for Casemiro|
|Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona: Catalans seeking second leg of treble|
|Auxerre v Paris Saint-Germain: History beckons for Ligue 1 champions|
|Cole confirms West Ham departure|
|UEFA elect not to boycott FIFA Congress|
|Borussia Dortmund v Wolfsburg: Klopp aiming for triumphant farewell|
|Flamini hails Coquelin impact at Arsenal|
|South Africa deny wrongdoing in World Cup bid|
|Benitez confirms Napoli exit|
|McShane among six released by Hull|
|Cerci committed to Milan|
|West Ham expect Collins to return for pre-season|
|Real deny Pogba bid|
|Important to keep Chelsea squad together - Mourinho|
|Alonso: Gerrard was magic|
|Pochettino silent on Ings speculation|
|Visa threatens to ´reassess´ sponsorship amid FIFA scandal|
|Blatter skips FIFA Medical Conference|
|MLS Preview: Revs not out for revenge against Galaxy|
|MLS Review: Sounders go top in West, Timbers and Galaxy win|
|AFC stands by Blatter|
|Matheus ´alright´ after collapse - Markevych|
|Copa Libertadores Review: River, Inter through to semis|
|Signing Toni a ´long shot´ for Adelaide|
|Ramsey good enough for Barca - Coleman|
|Bacuna pushing for Benteke stay|
|Evans stunner settles City friendly in Toronto|
|Banega: Emery a great coach|
|Emery tight-lipped on Sevilla future|
|Argentina finalise Copa America squad|
|Nike issues statement following arrest of FIFA officials|