Gerrard close to Reds return
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has spent the week in Abu Dhabi stepping up his rehabilitation from an ankle infection.
Gerrard is scheduled to return to full training on Monday having missed the past six weeks. It is still likely to be at least another fortnight before he is ready for action, but his recovery has followed the schedule.
The 31-year-old midfielder headed last weekend to the United Arab Emirates where he has been using the facilities of the Al Jazira FC.
This has become an increasingly popular base for English players on the comeback trail. Last summer, Everton sent highly-rated teenager Ross Barkley to the facility for conditioning work during pre-season.
Liverpool's physios felt the warmer climate would enable Gerrard to spend more time outdoors as he nursed his body back to full health.
He will return to Merseyside this weekend, confident of playing a role in a hectic festive schedule and with an eye on leading his side in their FA Cup tie against Oldham in January.
It has been a nightmare spell on the sidelines for Gerrard, who suffered the latest setback a month after recovering from a groin operation.
Liverpool have been especially cautious about setting any public timescale for his return -- he has not even been officially ruled out of Sunday's game at Aston Villa despite having no chance of being involved -- but this has been due to the club's unwillingness to put pressure on their captain to return too early.
With Liverpool sweating on the availability of Luis Suarez -- the outcome of his Football Association hearing with Patrice Evra is due today -- Gerrard's return will be timely.
The club's main flaw in an improving season is their lack of goals and the onus is inevitably shifting back to Kenny Dalglish's attacking options and, in particular, Andy Carroll.
The responsibility on Carroll to dispel the theory that Liverpool are waiting for a politically expedient time to cut their losses on their £35m investment grows by the week.
There are those on Merseyside who believe it is only a matter of time before Newcastle are sounded out and asked how much they would be willing to pay to take him back to St James' Park.
If, as expected, Liverpool try to reinforce their strikeforce in January it will only increase the pressure on Carroll to prove he is capable of igniting his Anfield career. He has yet to play more than three consecutive games for the club.
Dalglish could not have been more supportive of Carroll. Throughout the striker's inauspicious year at Anfield, the only lack of patience Dalglish has displayed regarding the striker has been aimed at those continuing to ask questions about his contribution. (© Daily Telegraph, London)