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By ESPN Staff

Steven Gerrard targets early return from injury

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is set to return to training in the coming days to further lift spirits at Anfield.

The England midfielder had expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks with a hamstring injury sustained in the FA Cup third round replay defeat at home to Reading nine days ago.

He missed last Saturday's 1-1 draw at Stoke and the 2-0 midweek victory over Tottenham but is set to return sooner than expected.

Liverpool are not in action this weekend with it being the FA Cup fourth round and the players were given a couple of days off to recover after the confidence-boosting Spurs win but are due back at Melwood on Saturday.

Gerrard thinks he can be ready for Tuesday's trip to Wolves but Bolton at home the following weekend is a more likely prospect as manager Rafael Benitez is unlikely to want to risk bringing back his captain too early.

"I'm hoping to return in time for the Wolves game next week, that's my target,'' Gerrard wrote in his programme notes for the Spurs match. "It's always a nightmare for me when I'm injured and I can't help the team.''

Former Liverpool midfielder Jan Molby accepts Gerrard's absence - as well as that of a number of key players - has impacted on the club's season but believes the rest of the squad are learning to play without their major stars.

"When you lose Gerrard and Fernando Torres - two of the world's best players - it's always going to be felt, not to mention the likes of Glen Johnson, Yossi Benayoun, Albert Riera and Daniel Agger,'' said the Dane. "We have to be glad we've got a big squad and players have been able to come in and do a job. They've shown we can cope and gain points while key men are sidelined.''

Molby, who won two league titles and two FA Cups with Liverpool, believes his former club's regular top-four experience means they are in pole position to qualify for the Champions League again.

Wednesday's win over Tottenham put them within a point of fourth place, currently occupied by Harry Redknapp's side, and Manchester City, and one ahead of Aston Villa.

"The players of Manchester City, Aston Villa and Spurs will all be talking about whether they can hang in there and clinch fourth,'' said Molby. "At Liverpool it won't even be a talking issue because we have done it on so many occasions before. Therefore, I feel the experience we have could have a massive bearing.''

Molby believes big-spending Manchester City represent Liverpool's biggest threat in the second half of the season.

"I have a feeling they will bring in one or two new signings before the close of the transfer window,'' he told the club's official website. "They also have players to come back such as Emmanuel Adebayor, who is very important to them. But the 'big four' are going to be very difficult to break up and I am confident Liverpool will finish in the Champions League places.''

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