Gerrard ruled out of crucial Champions League tie

Steven Gerrard has been ruled out of Liverpool's Champions League trip to Lyon, but striker Fernando Torres will be on the plane that heads for France tomorrow.

Although Gerrard has now played just 25 minutes of five matches since he sustained a groin injury while on England duty, boss Rafael Benitez has delayed any decision on whether his captain needs an operation.

Club sources suggest that Benitez is happy that Gerrard's treatment is progressing well and that the player's injury problem is improving.

If Gerrard does have an operation on his groin, it will rule him out for a month and he would be unlikely to play again until mid-December.

Liverpool are trying to avoid that eventuality, and Benitez will assess the midfielder's fitness levels again when the Anfield men return from Wednesday's match.

Gerrard will then have more intensive treatment ahead of the club's next league match, at home to Birmingham on Monday.

Torres will travel with the party, having been taken off at Fulham on Saturday after a hour to protect his adductor muscle injury.

Albert Riera (hamstring), Martin Kelly (ankle) and Martin Skrtel (muscle and virus), are also definitely out of the Group E match that Liverpool must win if they want to retain any serious hopes of qualifying for the last 16.

But £20million Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani will be available for selection after recovering from a virus.

Benitez said: "Aquilani trained today but was a little bit weak. Hopefully in two days' time he will be better.

"Gerrard won't travel to Lyon. He has no chance. He is improving but we have to wait. He has had an injection but we have to wait two or three days and see how he reacts.

"Skrtel has no chance. He has a small muscle problem. It's not too big but he is feeling something."

Meanwhile, the Liverpool manager will make late fitness calls on the recovering Daniel Agger (back), Glen Johnson (calf), Fabio Aurelio (calf) and David Ngog (ankle), none of whom travelled to Craven Cottage.

Benitez said: "Agger is improving - he will travel and we will then decide. He felt something in his back but it's much better now. We have to wait and see how he reacts.

"Fabio is improving but he still has a small problem in his calf, so we will have to wait. Ngog is much better, so he could be available.

"Johnson is training and working with the physios but he is a doubt at this moment. He will travel to Lyon and we will see."

Benitez again explained his decision to substitute Torres at Fulham, saying: "I was surprised with the criticism after the game because Fernando has had problems in the last month after the international games.

"We are trying to manage because he was close to having an operation. Still this morning, two days after the game, he is feeling something.

"He is not comfortable. He has not got the power he had before, so we have to manage and try to protect him. He cannot play well if you keep pushing him. Maybe if you push him he will be injured for a long time.

"So, I am really surprised with the critics. When you talk about big names, people just analyse the names and not how the player is when he is on the pitch. He was not 100% fit.

"We have to take Fernando to Lyon because we don't have too many options. We have to keep working with him and the rest of the players."

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