Steven Gerrard recently described him as the 'toughest in the Liverpool squad' but Raheem Sterling looks a little sheepish when this quote is put to him at Melwood.

In February, the Reds captain eulogised over the form of the young starlet, admitting in reference to his strength: "I don't go near him in training because if I do, there is only one winner!"

So, how did Sterling feel about those quotes?

"I think Steven is just winding you up - I don't think he really means that!" he laughs. "But for someone to say that is a really good thing.

"I just try to fight and hustle - I don't think it's a strength thing. I'm just hungry and don't want to lose the ball or get barged off it. It's more of a hunger thing.

"Obviously for a player of that calibre to be talking about your strength, it must be working. I have been working on my upper-body strength and my core work, and it has been working. I can't say I haven't been feeling the effects of it - I've been feeling much stronger and sharper."

It's been a breakthrough season for Sterling. 34 appearances and eight goals so far tell the story of a 19-year-old who has firmly established himself in Brendan Rodgers' table-topping squad.

He admits such praise from Gerrard goes a long way to helping him produce such outstanding form.

"When players like Stevie are telling you to go out there and try to create something and the defensive side of the team will worry about any mistakes, for someone like that to have belief in you and tell you to go out there and create, that gives you even more of a buzz," Sterling states.

"He's telling you he believes in you personally and the team believes in you. It's a good all-round thing with everyone having belief in each other and working for each other. It's working as we all wanted it to work."

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Sterling made his breakthrough as a lightning-fast winger. But over the course of the two years since a first-team debut against Wigan Athletic, he's evolved into a player capable of operating in several different positions.

A No.10 role at the tip of a midfield diamond is the latest berth he's flourished in.

"Every day I am learning with the players here - players like Philippe [Coutinho] in the No.10 role," he says.

"I look at everyone, look at everyone's game and try to take little things that I think I can improve in mine. I try to watch everyone day in, day out and the manager is helping me learn to play in certain positions; he's teaching me how to play in this No.10 role and making me realise I've to take a few less touches and play quicker.

"I think that's helping me to maybe take two touches and spin in behind. I'm really looking forward to keep working with him, learning day in, day out and hopefully I can be the best I can be.

"Learning from a manager like this and the players we've got, every day, it's an exciting feeling to come into training."

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It may have been a successful season on a personal level for Sterling, but there'll be no resting on laurels.

The No.31 is still hungry for more. Much more.

"Before I was playing [regularly] this season, if you'd asked me what my thoughts were when I got a chance, they were just purely on playing, contributing to the team, scoring some goals and assisting," he concludes.

"Now I just need keep playing - that's the main thing -  and keep focus. That's what I'm doing. I need to keep playing for Liverpool, doing well and hopefully score some more goals and get some more assists.

"It's a really enjoyable moment, not just for me but for the club as well. I'm really happy to be at this football club."