Aquilani admits to ankle injury fears

Benitez tries to play down new signing's problem but Italian is out until October
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The Independent Football

Alberto Aquilani, the Italian midfielder on whom Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has spent £20m of the proceeds of Xabi Alonso's sale, admitted yesterday that he faced a worrying time in the upcoming two months as he strives to get fit to play for his new club.

The ankle injury the player brought to Anfield has been exacerbated by an apparent failure by Roma's doctors to diagnose the seriousness of the condition. The insistence of doctors at Liverpool that Aquilani should not, as their Italian counterparts had suggested, risk any light training will confine the player to the sidelines – and means he may not be match ready until early October.

"Initially, the ankle problem I have was overlooked," Aquilani revealed. "We thought it was a simple injury so I just carried on playing, and then I finally had to stop because it really didn't feel well. There was a problem with the Roma medical camp in that the doctors were continually changing so I was never looked after by the same person, so perhaps that's when I began having problems."

The season has started much like the last one ended where injury worries are concerned for Benitez, with Steven Gerrard's latest groin injury making him a doubt for Sunday's visit to Tottenham. But Benitez brushed off concerns about the injury record of Aquilani, 25, who appeared only 14 times for Roma last season because of an ankle injury that required surgery in May. He was sidelined two seasons ago with a serious thigh strain and yet now finds himself an integral part of Liverpool's attempts to bring the title back to Anfield after 20 years. "He's been working hard from the first day on Monday, but we think he should be back between one and two months," Benitez said. "Maybe it can help Alberto that he won't be thrown straight in. It's never easy to settle down at a new club in a new country, so if he had to play straight away it would be difficult for him and people might start talking about him not being ready."

Aquilani has the psychological effects of the bad tackle which so damaged his ankle to contend with, but Benitez served a reminder that Alonso recovered from the tackle by Frank Lampard early in his Anfield career on New Year's Day 2005, which put him out for three months with a broken ankle. Though the Italian has the acuity to deliver a telling pass, in the manner of Luis Garcia, Benitez also values his ability to play more offensively than Alonso, in the final third. "He [also] has more accuracy in his final pass [than Alonso]," Benitez said. "He can score goals from distance too, but he can also drop back and play alongside [Javier] Mascherano and Lucas [Leiva] because he is a hard worker."

Aquilani dismissed suggestions that Italian players struggle with the physicality of the Premier League – as did Liverpool's defensive acquisition Andrea Dossena last season – suggesting that Italians were on the whole more physical than the Spaniards who have flourished at Anfield.

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