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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

Gerrard eyes Reds return

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard could return to training after the international break - just over a fortnight after undergoing surgery on a groin problem.

Gerrard had his operation on March 10 and was initially ruled out for a month but there is an outside chance he could face West Brom - and former Reds manager Roy Hodgson - at the Hawthorns on April 2.

However, much will depend on the 30-year-old's rehabilitation and he will not be pushed back into action early if the club's medical staff are not certain he is fully fit.

In a boost for manager Kenny Dalglish, Gerrard could be joined in training next week by Martin Kelly, who has been out with a hamstring injury since February 27.

There is also positive news over Jonjo Shelvey, who had a knee operation in early February, and Fabio Aurelio (hamstring).

"They're all improving. Fingers crossed, we will have Martin Kelly and Steven Gerrard back training by the middle of next week,'' said first team coach Steve Clarke.

"We hope the same for Jonjo Shelvey, who has been out for a long time. Fabio Aurelio is also making good progress.

"They're our four longer-term injuries, the ones that have been causing us a bit of concern recently, but hopefully they'll all join in training next week.''

Liverpool have been fortunate in that the forthcoming international matches mean they have had only two Premier League games and two Europa League fixtures in March.

Next month is busier, with key games against Manchester City and Arsenal, but the first target is the Baggies and to have the likes of Gerrard and Kelly back would be a significant boost as they attempt to reel in fifth-placed Tottenham.

"We'll have to look at the situation when we get them back and see what shape they're in,'' added Clarke.

"If they're in contention (for West Brom) it's a bonus for us, but if they're not we've got other difficult matches coming up next month and if they're ready for them then it will be good for the football club.

"It will be a difficult month in April with a lot of tough games, but if we can have our full squad ready to go then we'll look forward to the challenge.''

After back-to-back league wins the international break may be something of a hindrance but Clarke accepts it is part and parcel of the modern game.

And despite the break in their campaign the former Chelsea assistant manager is confident the players will be able to pick up their form quickly.

He feels the 2-0 win at Sunderland, coming three days after their Europa League last-16 exit at home to Braga, showed there is plenty of character within the squad.

"Everybody at the football club was disappointed when we went out of Europe at such an early stage, but I think they bounced back at Stadium of Light which is a difficult place to go and get a result,'' he said.

"''I think it tells you the players are willing to work for the club. They want to work hard.

"The players have proven they can bounce back from disappointments and as everybody in football knows, that's very important.''

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