Berger's knee is 'in the best hands'

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Patrik Berger has been told he is in the best possible hands as he bids to salvage his season following a recurrence of a knee injury.

Patrik Berger has been told he is in the best possible hands as he bids to salvage his season following a recurrence of a knee injury.

As Berger's Liverpool team-mates head for his Czech Republic homeland in search of European glory this week, the 26-year-old midfielder is set to fly in the opposite direction across the Atlantic for an operation on his shattered knee. It is a bitter few days for Berger after he was injured in the 4-3 defeat at Leeds United on Saturday, a recurrence of the same problem that forced him out of the first eight games of the season.

He was desperate to return to the Czech Republic - where he is a national hero - as part of Liverpool's Uefa Cup squad to face Slovan Liberec tomorrow in the second round, second leg of a tie the Anfield side lead by 1-0. But Berger is now expected to go to the United States on Saturday for an appointment with Dr Richard Steadman, the specialist who has been treating clubmate Jamie Redknapp this season.

Redknapp, who is now back at Liverpool's Mellwood training ground to continue his own rehabilitation work, said: "I am really gutted for Patrik. He was playing so well and this is a big blow for everyone at the club. We can only hope that the injury isn't as bad as people think it might be."

Redknapp, who has just returned from the States after more treatment at Steadman's Colorado base, said: "One thing is for sure, though, he will be in the best hands when he goes to America. I have spent time over there myself this year and Dr Steadman is the best in the business. Patrik has been in his care before, some years ago, and so he will know himself that he will get the right treatment and the right advice. I just hope he makes a speedy recovery."

Liverpool fly out to Prague this morning and then face a two-hour coach trip to northern Bohemia, where the small town of Liberec is situated near the Polish border. They will play tomorrow in a 7,000-capacity stadium at which temporary floodlighting has been installed.

Liverpool have had only a few hundred tickets for the match and have appealed to fans not to travel without one. A club spokesman said: "The small number of tickets we received for the game have completely sold out. We are concerned other supporters may make their way to the Czech Republic in what would prove to be a wasted journey. We have been advised by Slovan officials that no tickets remain for any part of the ground and there is a very strong suggestion that supporters without a ticket will not be allowed anywhere near the stadium itself."

Meanwhile, the American goalkeeper Brad Friedel finally left Anfield yesterday, completing a free transfer to Blackburn Rovers to become the 25th departure in Gérard Houllier's near two-year reign. Friedel had been refused a work permit to continue playing at Anfield but, under government rules, is allowed one transfer inside the United Kingdom. He has now rejoined Graeme Souness, who was his manager at Galatasaray.

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