Brendan Rodgers has admitted Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling is struggling with the demands of Premier League football, and the club will have to take "a wee step back" with his progress.
Sterling, 18, only made his Liverpool debut under Kenny Dalglish in March last year but has already amassed 39 appearances for the club - all but three of them coming this season.
His auspicious start to the campaign prompted Roy Hodgson to hand him his first England cap against Sweden in November, however the rigours of regular first-team football are beginning to take their toll.
The Jamaican-born attacker's form has dipped and he started for the reserves, alongside Andre Wisdom and Jonjo Shelvey, against Manchester United on Monday night.
Sterling played for Liverpool reserves against Manchester United on Monday night
"This is a kid we're talking about so we have to take a wee step back," Rodgers said.
"It is so mentally and physically draining this league. It hurts experienced professionals and this boy has just stepped up from the Academy and played first-team football and earned a contract off that. We have to nurture that and at times he's got to have that mentality to keep learning.
Rodgers added that if Sterling "didn't kick another ball this season he's had a good one" but conceded that his "zip has gone and that's down to fatigue".
Sterling has scored twice for the Reds this season - against Reading and Sunderland - but has not started a league game since the 21 January loss at Manchester United, when he struggled up against Rafael da Silva.
Rodgers has also rejigged Liverpool's forward line following the £12m signing of Daniel Sturridge, who has scored five goals in seven games.