Gerrard prepares to return for Liverpool’s Real test

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The Independent Football

Following Liverpool’s failure to break down Manchester City on Sunday in a draw that diminished their title challenge, Rafael Benitez would have been relieved yesterday when he was able to include captain Steven Gerrard in his squad to face Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie tomorrow.

Gerrard has been out for three weeks with a hamstring injury but was able to take part in training at Melwood yesterday morning and is poised to travel to the Spanish capital.

The England midfielder was thought to have been close to featuring in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with City but was ruled out by Benitez late last week. “Steven will be in the squad,” Benitez said yesterday. “He was OK in training this morning. It was a special training session so we were not testing him 100 per cent, but he trained OK so we will see.” Gerrard has not played since limping out of the FA Cup fourth round replay defeat at Everton on 4 February. Xabi Alonso, who missed the match against City through suspension, may also return at the Bernabeu.

Fabio Cannavaro, the Italy and Real defender, is in confident mood ahead of the tie. “We’re in good form,” he said. “The team is doing well and it has the fans’ support. We’re up against a historic team that is used to winning the Champions League. We must play smart, score and not concede.”

Cannavaro also had words of praise for Juande Ramos, the former Spurs coach, who has revitalised the Madrid squad. “The coach is doing a good job, we’ve gone back to being a team,” he said. “We made many mistakes during the first half of the season because we thought we could win just by wearing this shirt. We need to play as a team. That’s what Juande has done.”