Rodgers defends resting Sterling for Liverpool defeat to Aston Villa

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers says he would have started Raheem Sterling in Liverpool's disappointing 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday had the youngster not featured for England on international duty.

The hosts lacked a killer touch up front, hitting 18 shots at goal, but just one on target, with 19-year-old Sterling only appearing as a second-half substitute.

The Reds kick off their Champions League campaign by hosting Ludogorets Razgrad on Tuesday, and Rodgers says the added demands of European football means he has to trust more of his squad players.

"I said at the beginning of the season that I need to trust all the players we have," he told the club's official website.

"We've got a big couple of months -- a really exciting couple of months -- coming up. Looking at it, I felt this was a game we could [rest Sterling]. If he didn't have international football, it would have been a different case.

"He came on and was bright. He's going to be, and already is, a big player for us, but we've built a squad here and I trust all of the players.

"As a team and a squad, we just didn't deliver today. He will certainly play on Tuesday night."

The Villans left Anfield with a win for the second time in three years, and Rodgers knew things would be tough for his side once Gabriel Agbonlahor scored with the visitors' only shot on target.

"As a team we probably didn't quite have the intensity in our game and the speed in our game," he said. "When they get a goal and go 1-0 up, you've got to get around the sides and switch the play a bit quicker. We were just unable to do that.

"Apart from [Philippe] Coutinho hitting the post, we never really created anywhere near what we normally would do. We started slowly and gave away a poor goal. We picked up the tempo after that.

"The players gave everything but we just lacked that bit of quality in the final ball and you've got to give Aston Villa credit.

"They defended well once they got the goal, kept their lines tight and defended with a low block. We just couldn't get the final pass - it was really frustrating for us.

"They defended well; the back four and midfield five were in, and with Agbonlahor on the counter-attack they are always a threat.

"We have found a problem with Aston Villa in my time here. We have won away from home but again today the bit of quality in the final third let us down.

"There is nothing better after a disappointing performance and result like today than to get going again on Tuesday night in a competition we love. Hopefully we'll start that competition with three points."