Gerrard ruled out of Lyons return

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The Independent Online

Liverpool today head out towards their date with destiny in Lyons minus captain Steven Gerrard, and with Fernando Torres unlikely to play 90 minutes as he is carrying a hernia sustained on international duty early last month.

Though Torres is deemed fit enough to travel, his inguinal hernia is making it hard for him to push off and meant that he was still in pain yesterday, 48 hours after Rafael Benitez withdrew him from action an hour into Liverpool's match at Fulham on Saturday. An operation is the usual solution to what is a common medical condition, though there are hopes at Anfield that by limiting the Spaniard's appearances and allowing him to skip occasional training sessions, it will right itself without the need for surgery. The disclosure is certainly a blow for Liverpool, with Gerrard also possibly in need of surgery too. It also puts Benitez's decision to withdraw him at Craven Cottage into context.

Gerrard's response to treatment on his adductor muscle injury, which has included a course of injections to reduce swelling, has been positive though the prospect of him needing surgery remains. Benitez will assess the midfielder's fitness on Thursday and there will be more treatment for him ahead of the Birmingham City match on Monday.

But the immediate consideration is the Champions League Group E match that Liverpool must win if they want to retain any serious hopes of qualifying for the last 16. Liverpool's squad is seriously depleted with Albert Riera (hamstring), Martin Kelly (ankle) and Martin Skrtel (muscle and virus), all definitely out, so that Alberto Aquilani may play a role – despite being in the throes of a virus and having played only a brief cameo role at Arsenal in the Carling Cup defeat last week.

Neither is the prognosis on Glen Johnson's calf positive though he, too, will travel. "He is training and working with the physios but he is a doubt at this moment. He will travel to Lyons and we will see," Benitez said. With Kelly out and Philipp Deggen not in the Champions League squad, Jamie Carragher could be drafted in to the emergency right-back role he does not relish. Daniel Agger's back complaint had improved yesterday. Fabio Aurelio (calf) and David Ngog (ankle) will also both be subjected to late fitness tests ahead of tomorrow's game in Lyons.

Benitez expressed surprise at the criticism which followed his decision to substitute Torres in the 3-1 defeat at Fulham. "He is not comfortable," he said. "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."

Carragher will miss Liverpool's home match with Birmingham on Monday. The club have decided not to appeal over the red card he was given at Fulham, but will appeal against Degen's and have written to the Football Association asking for the decision to be overturned.

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