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Dec 10, 2009

Full-strength Liverpool looking forward

Liverpool are now well and truly looking ahead after Alberto Aquilani finally made his full debut and Fernando Torres returned from injury in their Champions League dead rubber loss to Fiorentina.

• Souness fears downward spiral
• Liverpool 2-1 Fiorentina
• Champions League wrap
• Champions League Gallery

Manager Rafael Benitez and skipper Steven Gerrard were impressed by Aquilani's showing at Anfield, where the technical midfielder showed enough to suggest he can at least partially fill the void left by Xabi Alonso and contribute to a turnaround in the Premier League, starting with Arsenal on Sunday.

Awaiting Arsenal at Anfield will be the closest thing to a full-strength Liverpool Benitez has been able to field this season, given both top scorer Torres and the talismanic Gerrard will both be available alongside £20 million summer signing Aquilani, who Benitez signed knowing he would be injured until around November.

Gerrard hailed Aquilani's play-making qualities in his side's disappointing 2-1 loss to Group E winner Fiorentina on Wednesday night.

"He did well,'' said Gerrard. "It's going to take him some time to get up to speed in terms of match fitness but the boy's a player, there's no doubt about that. He can see a pass, he's on the same wavelength and he will turn into a fantastic player for this club.''

Boss Benitez was also happy with Aquilani and particularly the return of Torres, who he knows is one of the few players at his disposal who can turn Liverpool from a good side into a great one.

He said: "To see Aquilani, to see Torres, those were the real positive things for the next match and the rest of our season. Aquilani showed his quality, his touch was good. His vision and passing were good but obviously he will have to work on his match fitness. Everyone is available for Sunday, if he trains well he could well be involved against Arsenal.

"We are still trying to see the positives, we are playing better and we must now take that into a very important game. It is the beginning of a new season for us now, I hope.''

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