Benitez confident of Sissoko recovery

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The Independent Football

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, said last night that he is very confident his midfielder Mohamed Sissoko will make a full recovery from a career-threatening eye injury and hopes he will make a speedy return to training.

Speaking at the club's annual general meeting in Liverpool last night, Benitez said Sissoko had made encouraging progress after alarming reports on Wednesday that the Mali international could lose up to 80 per cent of the vision in his right eye after being accidentally kicked in the face by the Benfica midfielder Beto during Liverpool's 1-0 Champions' League defeat in Lisbon on Tuesday night.

Benitez said: "We had bad news, then we had better news. Now we need to wait for another opinion. At this moment, it's more positive and I hope to see him training with us soon."

An eye specialist in London examined Sissoko yesterday and said there had been "some improvement" in his condition. Sissoko has been told to rest until next week, when he will be examined again.

The loss of Sissoko from Liverpool's midfield would be a major blow as the club has an interest in three competitions, and Benitez will revise his plans for the coming weeks. It could signal the premature end of his decision to use Steven Gerrard on the right of midfield, having failed to secure a winger during last month's transfer window. Starting with Sunday's home Premiership game against Manchester City, Gerrard could find himself back in the centre of midfield.

Sissoko has been under the care of "the best specialists in the country, " said Liverpool chief executive, Rick Parry.

A club spokesman said yesterday: "We are glad to report there has been an improvement in Momo's condition over the past 24 hours, with the progress described as 'encouraging'." Sissoko was in a Portuguese hospital on Wednesday, when reports suggested his sight could be "compromised," as he had badly damaged his right retina.

Sissoko's value is underlined by a statistical assessment of Premiership midfielders this season that revealed that their average work-rate is around eight kilometres (five miles) of running per game. Those figures showed Sissoko averages 12km a match.

Benitez will now shuffle his midfield and make sure he replaces the high work-rate of Sissoko with Gerrard. German midfielder Dietmar Hamann does not have the mobility to do Sissoko's job while Xabi Alonso has to produce high-quality passing.

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