LIVERPOOL youngster Raheem Sterling is in need of a break but manager Brendan Rodgers denied suggestions the teenager's dip in form is down to burnout.
The forward, who signed a new long-term deal soon after his 18th birthday in December, has lost the sparkle which made him an instant hit at the beginning of the season.
He has also lost his first-team place, turning out for the under-21s on Monday night after being benched for the seniors for the last two league matches having been a virtual ever-present in the first half of the campaign.
Rodgers (pictured) said a drop off in performance was to be expected but denied the youngster had been pushed too hard, too soon.
"This is a real tough league for an experienced player so it is no surprise that for a young kid that happens to him.
"I just have to protect him. I didn't mention burnout at all.
"What I know is that if he never kicks a ball for the rest of the season, he has had an outstanding season.
"I don't know of another 17-year-old who had the impact he had in one of the top five leagues in the world.
"He is getting to a period where he will need a rest, mentally as well as physically."
With the league match against Swansea brought forward because of the Welsh club's involvement in the League Cup final, Liverpool have had a period of inactivity.
The original plan was to head to Dubai for warm-weather training but that was shelved after the side's FA Cup exit to League One Oldham last month.
Rodgers has used the hiatus effectively, though, giving the players a break and doing some scouting.
"I gave the players a couple of days to recover because we had a real busy schedule of games," he added.
"I went to Reading and went abroad to watch a game."
Liverpool face Wigan tomorrow evening and the Reds boss said the match could not come soon enough.
"We are really looking forward to this game and we are going into the final run-in. We really want to push on."