With Raheem Sterling still resting and too many players out injured, Liverpool have been having to lean on Lazar Markovic and Emre Can more than they had earlier in the season. Whether it be due to injury or lack of form, Brendan Rodgers had been hesitant to utilize them as often as fans might have liked, but over the last month, both have been getting steadily better and earning more playing time.
Against Sunderland, both were key. Markovic scored the lone goal of the match, and Can was a constant presence in defense and midfield in helping Liverpool control the match. Their quality was a huge part of Liverpool's win, and did not go unnoticed by Rodgers.
"Lazar was fantastic today," said Rodgers of his goalscorer after the match. "Not just with the ball for his goal or when he hit the crossbar but his ability to press people and defend which is important. Lazar’s been very, very good the last six-or-seven weeks or so. It’s just taken time. [...] He’s just 20 years of age and has a big, big future ahead.
"If you look at Emre Can today and young Lazar, they’ve come into a new country under a big spotlight. Because of what we did last year it’s been difficult for the team but they’re starting to settle in to the philosophy of how we work and how we play."
It certainly is a good point that Rodgers brings up about settling the young stars in. Neither Markovic or Can have spent much time in England before this season, and of the two only Can is used to a competition near the quality of the Premier League. For Markovic especially, making the jump from the Portuguese Primeira Liga to the EPL is a massive leap in quality in the players he's facing off against, but of late he's finally looked comfortable.
As for Can, his versatility and quality are making him harder and harder to drop out of the side. While competition for places is certainly going to heat up as more first teamers return to health, Can is certainly doing everything he can to force Rodgers to find a place for him in every starting eleven, and the more he plays, the better it will be for his development as a player.
Having these two young stars-in-the-making alongside of Liverpool's other young talents like Sterling and future captain Jordan Henderson gives the club a fantastic base to build on in the future. What the next era of Liverpool football holds with them at its core is unknown, but exciting to dream on. No matter what else you think of Brendan Rodgers as a manager, thanking him for helping Liverpool's talent get to this point should be mandatory.