Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling opened his account for the season on Sunday in an impressive displayGetty Images/PAUL ELLIS

Raheem Sterling's performance against Southampton proved he had the ability to replace Luis Suarez for Liverpool this season, according to former Reds midfielder Ray Houghton.

Sterling scored the first and made the winner for Daniel Sturridge as Brendan Rodgers' men began their campaign with a nervy 2-1 win over a much-changed Saints side at Anfield.

After enjoying his breakthrough campaign in the Liverpool first-team last season, Sterling was a rare highlight during England's World Cup campaign during the summer, and Houghton believes the 19-year-old can replicate Suarez's performances this season.

"They're going to have to do that [improve] because they've lost their main player in Suarez," he told talkSPORT.

"They're going to have to compensate for that in other ways. Others are going to have to step up and take more responsibility in that final third to score more goals.

"Certainly we saw that with Sterling yesterday. He showed signs he's going to be a real threat. I think he's going have a fantastic season. He's got real ability, I think he's really settled down now and he's understanding his position in the side.

"I think he's going to be there week in, week out, he's not going to be just a bit-part player for them, he's going to be a main player for them. I think that's going to be very important for Liverpool."

Liverpool are currently negotiating a new contract with Sterling, who has three years to run on his current deal, with reports suggesting the club are ready to offer three times his current pay in order to keep the player on Merseyside.

The contract would make Sterling one of Liverpool's highest-paid players but Rodgers has already heeded caution over handing the youngster a bumper new deal.

"[A new contract] will be something that's done but we need to be careful," Rodgers said.

"Raheem is a kid who has propelled himself on to another level. He got rewarded for that and that will always be the case here but we have to be careful because, when you reward young players too quickly, that will be their downfall.

"It's a big problem with British players. Why? Because the reward is no longer there, they lose their hunger.

"Young players driving about - I say driving about, they buy a new Range Rover Sport before they have even got their driving licence."