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."
|Ghana 1 Mali 1: Sako spot-kick denies Black Stars|
|Luxembourg 1 Turkey 2: Calhanoglu stakes claim with late winner|
|Italy 1-1 England: Townsend rocket earns draw for Three Lions|
|Rummenigge marvels at ´genius´ Guardiola|
|Switzerland 1 United States 1: Stocker seals draw after Altidore red|
|Young players should not need a break, says Dyche|
|Tottenham acquire final piece of land for new stadium|
|Netherlands 2-0 Spain: Rejuvenated Dutch ease pressure on Hiddink|
|Switzerland 1-1 USA: Altidore sent off in friendly draw|
|Palestinian FA speaks out against Israel-Belgium venue selection|
|Valdes enjoying football again after injury nightmare|
|Emotional Cha retires ´a happy man´|
|Dortmund´s Kirch suffers knee injury|
|Newcastle need to be mentally prepared, says Williamson|
|Leno ´knows nothing´ of Real interest|
|Tunisia to compete in AFCON after apology|
|Van der Vaart not allowing future to affect his game|
|Vlaar: Sherwood has reduced stress levels|
|Roma hit by Gervinho hamstring blow|
|Jones optimistic over Everton´s strike partnership|
|Milik sustains knee ligament damage|
|Georgia fear stadium closure for Scotland clash|
|Zamparini: Juventus and Arsenal have bid for Dybala|
|South Korea 1 New Zealand 0: Lee nets late winner|
|Japan 5 Uzbekistan 1: Five-star hosts maintain Halilhodzic start|
|European clubs benefit from UEFA agreement|
|Vassell: Sky is the limit for Kane|
|Manchester United move would be an ´honour´ for Coentrao|
|Insigne out to bolster Napoli season after lay-off|
|Rooney warns Kane over ´clever´ Italy defenders|
|Rangers results reveal £500,000 Newcastle clause|
|Southampton announce £33.4m profit|
|´I am a very flexible man´ - Van Gaal|
|A-League Preview: Top spot up for grabs|
|Portugal - Cape Verde Preview: Andre and Oliveira eager for international bows|
|Puerto Rico 0 Canada 3: Floro´s men rout hosts|
|Xavi denies Al Sadd link|
|Fernando´s life ban upheld by CAS|
|Argentina - Ecuador Preview: Messi remains doubtful for friendly|
|Falcao equals Colombia´s all-time scoring record|
|Macedonia trip good learning curve - Postecoglou|
|Macedonia 0 Australia 0: Stalemate in Skopje|
|Del Bosque not out for Netherlands revenge|
|Burton Albion 1 Stevenage 1: Both teams score at wrong end in draw|
|Pekerman: I have no say on Falcao´s Manchester United future|
|Buffon has studied England new boy Kane|
|Conte urges patience from Italy fans|
|Johnson tasked with keeping Cheltenham up|
|Rooney not keen on Serie A switch|
|Kane to make first England start|
|Colombia 3 Kuwait 1: Spot-on Falcao equals Iguaran record|
|Goal-shy Barkley eyes striker´s role|
|UEFA opens disciplinary proceedings against Montenegro and Russia|
|Draxler and Choupo-Moting back in training|
|Ghana v Mali: Last chance to impress before Giresse return|
|Wilson: Gibraltar getting stronger|
|Mata confident of Spain future|
|Armenia coach Challandes resigns|
|Hiddink rubbishes talk of Dutch negativity|
|Portugal v Cape Verde: Santos set to rotate|
|Loren hails Moyes for Sociedad surge|
|Cruyff brands Netherlands ´a disgrace´|
|Kick It Out backs Barnes over race comments|
|Argentina v Ecuador: Messi remains doubtful for friendly|
|Coates backs Hughes ambition at Stoke|
|Atletico able to call on Saul again|
|Italy v England Preview: Kane set to start after dream debut|
|Zidane would accept Real job|
|Hernandez frustrated by lack of Real opportunities|
|Spartak donate money to 102-year-old fan after robbery|
|Clasie pulls out of Netherlands squad|
|Italy´s Bertolacci out of England friendly|
|Newcastle post record profit as Ashley debt stays the same|
|Al Sadd: We want Xavi to bring tiki-taka|
|Lacazette expected frosty Saint-Etienne reception|
|Barnes: I can´t get back into management because I´m black|
|Rooney praises England aggression|
|Southgate tips Kane for return to U21s|
|Mexico v Paraguay: Goals in order for Copa America aspirants|
|Netherlands - Spain Preview: Wijnaldum rallies behind under-fire Hiddink|
|Peru v Venezuela: Sanvicente wants Venezuelan response|
|Carvalho confident of playing Juventus|
|Neymar demands protection after Medel stamp|
|MLS Review: RSL, Fire secure breakthrough wins|
|Firmino firmly on radar - Dunga|
|O´Neill delighted with second-half display|
|First-half dominance pleases Deschamps|
|Muller criticises Germany profligacy|
|Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Portugal go top, Gibraltar make history in defeat|
|Liverpool the only English club I could play for - Suarez|
|France 2 Denmark 0: Lacazette off the mark in routine victory|
|Republic of Ireland 1 Poland 1: Long rescues vital point|
|Portugal 2 Serbia 1: Coentrao puts hosts top of Group I|
|Strachan hails ´terrific´ Gibraltar|
|Lafferty back playing with a smile on his face - O´Neill|
|Toure to reveal Ivory Coast future over coming days|
|Georgia 0 Germany 2: Reus and Muller on target for world champions|
|Northern Ireland 2 Finland 1: Lafferty inspires fourth qualifying success|
|Scotland 6 Gibraltar 1: Casciaro´s historic moment outshone by Fletcher´s hat-trick|
|France 2-0 Denmark: Lacazette and Giroud on target|
|Firmino hopeful of Copa America spot|
|Hummels considering options at Dortmund|
|Suarez goalless on Anfield return, but Balotelli nets stunner|
|Casciaro scores first competitive goal for Gibraltar|
|Fleetwood Town 1 Preston North End 1: Ball stunner claims share of derby spoils|
|Italy v England: Judge me on results, says Conte|
|Colombia v Kuwait: Falcao seeking another strong showing|
|Brazil 1 Chile 0: Firmino settles scrappy affair|
|Luxembourg v Turkey: Let´s kick on, urges Terim|
|South Africa 1 Nigeria 1: Zungu strikes late to earn draw|
|Smalling wants long-term United stay|
|South Africa 1-1 Nigeria: Last-gasp Zungu goal cancels out Musa strike|
|Italy call up Santon and Abate for England friendly|
|Switzerland v United States: Klinsmann eyes learning curve|
|Netherlands v Spain: Hiddink has players´ support, says Wijnaldum|
|A-League Review: Sydney end Wellington run, Adelaide suffer injury blows in Jets win|
|Henderson eyes long-term Liverpool future|
|I have nothing to prove - Bale|
|Brazil 1-0 Chile: Firmino gives Selecao battling victory|
|South Korea v New Zealand: All Whites looking to future|
|Japan v Uzbekistan: Hosts eye another win under Halilhodzic|
|MLS Review: Kaka nets in Orlando draw|
|Mexico 1 Ecuador 0: Hernandez, Corona help Herrera´s men to victory|
|Deschamps calls for France response|
|Dunga unfazed by pressure|
|Montenegro fan turns himself in after flare incident|
|Injured Messi not ready - Martino|
|Hodgson: Rooney not close to Charlton|
|Terim proud of Turkey|
|Hiddink happy with point|
|Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Netherlands and Italy stage late escapes|
|Debutant Eder delighted with Azzurri bow|