Aquilani desperate for Liverpool start

Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani may have to be patient for a little longer before getting his first start for Liverpool since his £20m summer move from Roma.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has played down claims the Italy international - reassured by national boss Marcello Lippi over his World Cup final chances this week following six months of injury problems - will start Saturday's home match with Manchester City.

Aquilani has now recovered from ankle surgery but has so far managed one 15-minute spell in a reserve match and two similar cameo roles in senior matches with Arsenal and Birmingham.

But although Liverpool are still suffering from injury problems ahead of the crunch match with City, Benitez is worried about pushing the Italian too hard.

He said: "Alberto wants to play for us and he is so desperate to be involved as quickly as he can but he understands the reasons he cannot start yet.

"He wants to keep improving his condition and now it is just a matter of him keeping calm as it will not be long before he is there. He is pushing us all the time.

"He is very positive and wants to help the team now but you must remember that we have a responsibility to him, and we will not take any risks at this stage.

"We have got to keep analysing the situation and watching him in every training session but we know that the right time is nearly here. He has a very good mentality."

The 25 year-old is now likely to be named on the bench, with Benitez saying: "You can see in everything he does that he has got quality.

"He knows when to pass at the right time and to the right players, he makes good decisions on the pitch.

"Alberto is training really well and he is doing extra work to make sure he is in the best possible condition; I spoke with him in the gym this week and he is very positive, his spirits are good.

"We have meetings every day with our medical staff to see how much we can keep pushing him and when the time is right to increase the levels of his work.

"He is a player who can pass the ball and we have seen that in the games he has played so far, even though he has not had too much time on the pitch."

Liverpool expect to have Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger fit to play, although despite doing some light training this week, Fernando Torres is unlikely to be involved.

Fabio Aurelio is still ruled out with a calf injury that robbed him of his first cap for Brazil during the international break, while young striker David Ngog - despite breaking his nose while training with the French Under-21 side - will be in the squad.

Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera, who are believed to both have had treatment in Belgrade this week with physiotherapist Mariana Kovacevic, could also be involved despite expecting to be out for a month with hamstring injuries.

Kovacevic has come to prominence recently following treatment for Arsenal's Robin van Persie that involves the use of placenta cells.

Jamie Carragher still has two matches of his three-game suspension to serve, but can be involved in Tuesday's Champions League trip to Budapest to face Debrecen.

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