Liverpool first-team coach Steve Clarke believes the time is now right for captain Steven Gerrard to step up his bid for regular football.
The England international was left out of Fabio Capello's squad for Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier in Montenegro as he has played just 56 minutes of football in three substitute appearances this season. Gerrard's recovery from a groin operation in March took slightly longer than expected and Liverpool were not prepared to risk the midfielder.
Reds coach Clarke told liverpoolfc.tv: "For Steven it's just a progression. He's coming back from a long-term injury and we'll try to treat him as cautiously and carefully as we can. Obviously there will be a time when he is going to have to push on - and I think this is the time now."
He added: "We've only got a very small group of players left behind because we've got a lot away on international duty but we managed to get a lot of good work into them yesterday. With Steven it has been well documented that we're looking after him.
"He's going to have to push himself in the coming weeks - and the more minutes we get into him, the better."
Liverpool's medical and coaching staff believe they have covered every minor detail in managing Gerrard's comeback, tailoring his rehabilitation with specifically designed programmes.
"After you've been out for a long time, you struggle with the pace of the game and the size of the pitches," Clarke added.
"So we worked with him in small areas and then gradually started to make the areas bigger. Every step is important.
"He's handled the steps we've given him so far very well and we'll just look to push him on."
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