Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez admits he must assess the risk of using Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani in tonight's critical Barclays Premier League clash at Aston Villa.
The £20million summer signing from Roma finally made his first Barclays Premier League start in Liverpool's 2-0 victory over Wolves.
He has struggled with fitness and injury all season and had to be substituted with six minutes to go on Boxing Day complaining of a hamstring problem.
Benitez is aware that although Aquilani adds flair and creativity, he has been considered too lightweight at times for the English game during his opening months at Anfield.
Benitez said: "Aquilani did well against Wolves, but he needs match fitness. He was trying to be involved, passing and creating chances, but the Premier League is difficult and he will settle down little by little.
"It is a difficult decision with the Villa game coming so quickly. Some of our players were very tired after the Wolves match, while some had little injuries. We will need to assess them all.
"We will have to manage them carefully but clearly if Javier Mascherano is not available for the next three games through suspension, then Aquilani will obviously have more chance of time on the pitch.
"But against Wolves he was worried about his hamstring, he was concerned and I wanted to protect him. That is why we took him off."
Benitez would prefer to utilise two holding midfield men in what promises to be a tough match against Villa.
Lucas was troubled by a stomach upset ahead of the Wolves match and Liverpool looked weak in midfield at times.
Benitez could solve that problem by playing Steven Gerrard in a deeper role.
The Spaniard said: "Maybe we would normally have two holding players for such a game, but we have options. Gerrard can play in that role, we will see.
"Lucas was tiring against Wolves, he was not well, but now we must see how he recovers and whether he can have more energy now. It all depends on how the players feel and react after the Wolves game."Reuse content