GUARDIAN – England’s Raheem Sterling given no respite by boo boys in Dublin

Sterling struggles against the Republic of Ireland, with his fall-off in form attracting more jeers. His second-half substitution seems like a mercyRaheem Sterling must be growing accustomed to the abuse by now. The undercurrent of dissent which had grumbled unnervingly around Anfield over the latter weeks of the campaign had given way recently to something more vociferous, whether overtly expressed at Liverpool’s end-of-season awards ceremony at the Echo Arena or within the Britannia Stadium as his side sank without trace on the season’s final afternoon. His life plays out with boos ringing in his ears these days and Dublin, across the Irish Sea, provided no respite.These are troubled times for Sterling. All that zest and effervescence the young man had displayed heading into last summer’s World Cup seems rather distant, the memories of his scuttling runs at back-tracking opponents, not least against Italy in Manaus, fading with every peripheral display. Back then his form had been a joy, his quality all too obvious, but the enthusiasm appears to have sapped away. The 60th game of his season was another plod, a mess of penalty appeals, complaints after tussles with Hull’s Robbie Brady, and a substitution midway through the second period which felt like a mercy. Continue reading…

GUARDIAN – Barcelona pair the benchmarks for studious Jordan Henderson

Self-improvement is a key theme for the Liverpool midfielder as he hooks up with England after a chastening season at AnfieldJordan Henderson will wait until just after the England squad dinner on Saturday night before peeling away from the throng, all bound for one of the big-screened communal rooms at their disposal, and heading instead back to his room. Like most of the players in Roy Hodgson’s party at their Dublin hotel, the Liverpool midfielder will spend his evening entranced by the Champions League final in Berlin although, judging by his pre-match thrill, he may do so with notebook in hand. A collision between Barcelona and Juventus provides lavish entertainment. For Henderson, it will also be an education.A campaign that began with Hodgson handing out homework to those in the national set-up will end with one of the key members of the side soaking up events at the distant Olympic Stadium. Henderson is well versed in the phenomenal work rate put in by Luis Suárez, a former club-mate, amid the most mouth-watering front three in world football. He gawped again at that industry first-hand when watching from the stands at the Etihad Stadium as Barça triumphed over Manchester City in February. Yet drawing his attention in Germany will be the role played by Ivan Rakitic, perhaps an overlooked talent, and the Catalan club’s midfield in granting that attacking trio the licence to run riot. Continue reading…