Liverpool’s Martin Kelly believes he is "six to eight weeks away" from a return to full fitness as he steps up his recovery from a long-term knee injury.
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Kelly played a full 90 minutes for the first time in 11 months on Monday as Liverpool beat Manchester United 4-2 at Salford in the Under-21 Premier League.
The 23-year-old defender captained the side as one of three permitted over-age outfield players in coach Alex Inglethorpe’s side.
And his next aim is to get himself back into contention for a place in Brendan Rodgers’ first-team squad.
"It’s all the hard work that starts now and in the next six to eight weeks I should get back to that fitness," he told Liverpool’s official website.
Kelly missed almost the whole of last season after suffering cruciate knee ligament damage during the 2-1 Premier League defeat at home to Manchester United on September 23.
He made his return with a nine-minute appearance in their first pre-season friendly, at Preston on July 13.
The defender travelled with Liverpool on their three-match tour of the Far East, and appeared in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Newcastle last Wednesday, before playing a full match at centre-back on Monday.
He said: "It was good to get the first 90 minutes under my belt after so long.
"I played last week in a behind closed doors friendly but to get 90 minutes for the Under-21s was superb for me and my fitness."
The return to fitness of Kelly, who started last season at right-back for Liverpool but can also play in central defence, comes as Sebastian Coates faces up to a lengthy absence with a similar injury.
Uruguay’s FA has confirmed that Coates will have surgery on Friday after tearing a knee ligament while on international duty.
Kelly, who went to Euro 2012 with England as a late call-up after Chelsea’s Gary Cahill suffered a broken jaw, said in July that he had an eye on winning a place at next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil, should Roy Hodgson’s men qualify.
But for the time being, his focus is on getting fit with his club Under-21 side. He said: "I just want to get as many games in as I can.
"I missed so much last season and it’s difficult mentally coming back from 11 months out and knowing you are not where you were last pre-season, because I started the last pre-season flying and that’s where I want to get back to."