Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Aquilani close to Liverpool Debut

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has been given some welcome good news after being told £20million summer signing Alberto Aquilani could make his long-awaited debut later this month.

The former Roma midfielder, 25, arrived at Anfield in August having undergone surgery on an ankle injury and has yet to make an appearance.

However, Benitez, whose side have lost successive games to Fiorentina and Barclays Premier League title rivals Chelsea, is optimistic the Italy international will soon be match fit after stepping up his rehabilitation.

'I have been speaking to the doctors and things are going well with him," the manager said. 'Alberto is progressing all the time. It could be two to three weeks before he is back. But we need to use caution. We will take it one step at a time and we have the international break to look forward to now.

'That will be good for him, as he will have some more time. He is running and swimming - I think he will have the record in the swimming pool by the end of his programme - and he is working in the gym,' said Benitez.

'He is doing almost everything and he is doing some things with the team. The only thing he is not doing is kick a ball - not yet any way.'

Aquilani was bought as a direct replacement for Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso, who was sold to Real Madrid after a protracted transfer saga.

At the time Benitez knew the player would not be fit enough to feature early on in the season but has stressed the acquisition of the Italian was part of a long-term plan.

And although the Liverpool boss is facing more questions about his side's ability to sustain a serious title challenge after a third Premier League defeat - already more than in the whole of last season - he will not press Aquilani into action ahead of schedule.

But it seems the Italian could make his first appearance in the Carling Cup fourth round tie at Arsenal on October 28. 'We knew he had the problem but we knew we were signing the player for five years and not five weeks,' he added.

'We will see if he can improve. Clearly he is a player with quality we are desperate to see on the pitch but we will not push him too much. He has to go one step at a time and see how he progresses.'

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