Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes striker Daniel Sturridge is the fittest he has been for 18 months, but will still handle him with caution, ahead of Saturday’s clash with Manchester United.
The England striker, who spent most of the summer undergoing rehabilitation in the United States, returned to full training with the rest of the squad this week after recovering from a hip operation in New York in May and has not played since the FA Cup win over Blackburn at the start of April.
He will not be ready for Saturday’s match against Manchester United at Old Trafford but his impending return will boost a goal-shy squad which has scored just two goals in four matches and none in their last two.
“There is no timeline as to when he will be fit to participate in the game but he is obviously back in training, which is good,” said Rodgers.
“He looked really sharp in training, probably the best he’s looked fitness-wise for 18 months, and it will be really good when he gets back.
“I can never say that (he is over the worst of his injuries) because I don’t want to sit here and something happens in a couple of months’ time.
“I can only look at what I see and from my experiences in the past I don’t want to put any timeline on him coming back.
“I am grateful for the work done in America, for our own medical team who have done a brilliant job to do everything they possibly could to get Daniel back to a level of fitness.
“He has worked hard. He has joined in with the group and we will take it from there, day-by-day.”
Meanwhile, Rodgers has refused to lay the blame at Dejan Lovren’s door after the Merseysiders were beaten 3-0 by West Ham at Anfield prior to the international break.
Lovren was badly at fault for the visitors’ second goal, but rather than dwell on his latest mistake, Rodgers preferred to focus on some improved performances in the opening three games during his press conference on Friday.
“Dejan knows we performed below the level in that game (v West Ham),” Rodgers said. “He knows he made a mistake but it was about the collective.
“In his first three games this season Dejan showed he has the quality and the consistency to perform well.”
A trip to Manchester United is unlikely to have been Rodgers’ first choice as Liverpool look to bounce back after the international break, but the Northern Irishman acknowledges the boost a win could give his side going into the rest of the season.
“It’s however the games come, you know you’re going to have to deal with them,” added Rodgers.
“This game comes on back of international break so had virtually no time to work with players. Some only arrived back yesterday.
“But the players are focused and we will be ready for it.
“It’s a good opportunity for us on the back of a disappointment. A chance to put that behind us.
“We’ve had two tough games away from home and performed well in terms of our organisation. We also want to be really creative.
“This is the biggest derby game in the history of this league. Winning a game like this can give you psychological boost.”
“United is a huge club and will always be under scrutiny. The intensity of this fixture is still there. The players will feel it.”