Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has revealed his delight at the return to full fitness of club captain Steven Gerrard.
The England international midfielder has endured a frustrating spell on the sidelines, suffering a groin injury in March that forced him to miss the end of last season. An infection in the area also kept him out of action at the start of the current campaign.
After making a gradual return to action at Anfield, an ankle injury at the end of October then required surgery, putting the 31-year-old out of action for another seven weeks.
"Steven was back to full fitness before he got a freak injury and that's why he had to recover again, but the two of them weren't related and he is back and looks even better than he did the last time he came back," said 'King Kenny'.
"But we are not going to be irresponsible and throw him in and take a chance. We know he's fit and we know he just needs game time in the same way as we monitored him through last time and we'll do the same this time.
"He looks superb at the moment."
The inspirational skipper's return is an undoubted boost for the Reds, who have been frustrated thus far over the festive period following back-to-back draws against Wigan and Blackburn respectively.
With Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina more than capable of leading the Liverpool side, Dalglish is delighted to now have three 'captains' in the dressing room, which should serve as great motivation to the younger players in the squad.
"We have got three captains in the dressing room in Stevie, Carra and Pepe so we've always said it's best to have your strongest players, your best players, fit and around the squad," added the Scot in his pre-match press conference.
"It must make us better and stronger. Given a bit of luck in front of goal I think it will make us a lot stronger on the pitch as well."
Next up for Liverpool is the visit of Newcastle, who travel to Merseyside tomorrow night one place and one point behind the Reds in the Barclays Premier League.
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