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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 20, 2007

Riise hoping to return against Birmingham

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez returned from the near-disaster of the Champions League trip to Porto to be boosted by confirmation that Norwegian defender John Arne Riise had declared himself fit for selection for Saturday's home league clash with Birmingham.

It was a small mercy for Benitez, who had witnessed a depressingly poor display in the Group A opener in Portugal, even though Dirk Kuyt's header secured a fortunate 1-1 draw.

The positives from that were, however, clear. Liverpool, despite playing badly, did not lose to arguably their biggest rivals in the group, and it is a point that could be crucial to deciding top spot come December.

Benitez left Riise behind on Merseyside for treatment on a back problem that he had picked up on international duty last week, and which had ruled him out of last weekend's trip to Portsmouth.

The Spaniard will now need assessments on Xabi Alonso and Daniel Agger, who also missed the drama in the Estadio do Dragao.

Alonso failed to shake off an ankle problem that sidelined him at Pompey, while Agger was named on the bench in Porto despite picking up a foot injury.

Sami Hyypia, who was involved in conceding that first-half penalty, would probably not have played had the young Dane been fully fit.

Benitez knows Liverpool must bounce back against the promoted midlanders to retain their unbeaten record this term.

Riise is likely to return to the side as a wide midfielder, with Alvaro Arbeloa retaining the left-back slot.

Riise said: 'I am fit again and raring to go now. It was devastating for me to miss the last two games because they were big matches against Portsmouth and Porto.

'I picked up the injury playing for my national team but a scan showed it was not a serious problem. I missed four days training but I am a quick healer and thankfully I am fit again now.

'Throughout my time at Liverpool I have not picked up too many injuries and have not missed that many games.

'I am full of energy now after not playing in the last couple of games and I am now looking forward to the rest of the week's training and the chance to force my way back into the side at the weekend.'

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