Daniel Sturridge nears return to fitness ahead of key battles for Liverpool
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 it is understood 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 tomorrow's match can be significant for the victors.
"The two teams arrive in a similar situation with a lot of new players, a lot of new signings," he 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."