Liverpool have been boosted by the return to training of striker Daniel Sturridge but it may still be too soon for him to feature in tomorrow’s trip to Manchester United.
The England international has not played since April 8 and after a hip operation in May he has spent much of the summer on a rehabilitation programme in the United States.
He returned to Melwood for individual sessions in late August and he has now joined training with the rest of the first-team squad.
When he first had surgery it was expected Sturridge could be sidelined until October, but manager Brendan Rodgers was more positive with his outlook early this season and the 26-year-old appears to be progressing well.
Rodgers has insisted he will not rush back Sturridge, who had a catalogue of injury problems last season which ruled him out for a total of six months, and erring on the side of caution suggests it is unlikely he will feature at Old Trafford.
However, with Liverpool’s Europa League campaign beginning next week in Bordeaux his presence within the squad is a welcome one.
Midfielder Lucas Leiva, who is likely to feature against arch-rivals United with captain Jordan Henderson still recovering from a heel injury, admits the outcome of Saturday’s match can be significant for the victors.
But he believes Liverpool have to tackle it as they would any other.
“The two teams arrive in a similar situation with a lot of new players, a lot of new signings,” Leiva said.
“It’s probably one of the biggest games of the season. I think if you get a good result there it can give you a lot of belief and confidence going forward.
“It’s a team that will be challenging for the top four and titles so it’s a good opportunity for us to put the result against West Ham (a 3-0 home defeat) behind us and start again.
“We have to try to approach it the same way we approach every single game but we know there is a lot of talking and the fans are more excited about it.”
Meanwhile, Luke Shaw believes he is playing the best football of his career and has offered his experiences of a tough first season at Manchester United to new French recruit Anthony Martial.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed an impressive start to the season with both United and England having struggled in his debut year at Old Trafford.
Shaw moved to United from Southampton last summer for £30m (€41m) to become the most expensive teenager in football — a record since smashed when the Red Devils moved for Martial on transfer deadline day.
But, despite starring for Saints in his breakthrough season, a number of injuries and a poor run of form saw him make just 15 Premier League starts as Daley Blind became Louis van Gaal’s first-choice left-back.
This season he has hit the ground running for both club and country and is pleased to have turned things around.
“Obviously last season was very difficult for me,” he said.
“I just feel fresh and fit and hopefully I can get a run of games now and keep my performances up. I trained before I went back to pre-season. That was a massive help to me and now I just want to keep on playing well.
“It was made hard with the injuries that I picked up. I didn’t expect that to happen as much as it did.
“I think that is what knocked my confidence down, I never got fully fit, so whenever I was playing I wasn’t at my best and I didn’t feel at my best. Now I am playing and I feel great.
“To be honest I feel better than I did at Southampton. Game by game I feel like I’m getting stronger, especially in training. I just want to keep it up now and pray there are no injuries.”
Much has been made about the pressure surrounding Martial and the £36m (€49m) fee that United paid Monaco for his services.
The 19-year-old has already said it will not phase him and Shaw has offered himself up as someone to talk to – recommending he keeps himself out of the media spotlight.
“Of course you see it,” he said of negative press.
“I think I read too much of it last year. I tend to ignore it now. There are always going to be highlights especially for someone like me who went for so much money.
“There are always going to be people doubting me and wanting to write bad stuff about me but obviously just to ignore it and carry on playing the way I am.”
“Anthony is a young player with a lot of potential. Hopefully we can help him and he will learn a lot from players like Wayne Rooney. It’s great for him to have someone like that.
“He looks like he has got that pace and ability that we might need. At United I think we need a bit more pace and I think he is going to bring that.”
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