Manager Rafael Benitez admits Steven Gerrard's fitness is causing increasing concern with the midfielder facing a defining week in his recovery from a groin problem.
The midfielder is already out of Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Fulham and has little chance of being involved in the vital Champions League game at Lyon next Wednesday.
Benitez said: "Gerrard is improving but the next week will be crucial in terms of any decision about what we will do with him."
Benitez is still privately furious that Gerrard sustained and aggravated a groin injury on England duty.
And the prospect of an operation for Gerrard is not being ruled out, and that would mean an even longer absence.
"I have talked to him, he is working with the medical team and his progress is slow, but we will then have to decide what to do if he is not progressing as quickly as we would hope," Benitez said.
"He has had this problem for some time but when he has a lot of games for his club, as well as the national team, it is not easy to give him a rest.
"We will try to manage this differently in the future but we always have the same problem, that he wants to play in every match.
"And that applies to England as well. It is very positive, it is a fine mentality, but maybe we should be looking at the right way to handle a problem that continues to cause him trouble.
"I do not believe he will have this problem for the rest of his career but we certainly need to find a solution now. We have a good medical staff, I have confidence we can manage this problem."
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