The momentum Liverpool have been building up under Kenny Dalglish will be imperilled by the likely absence of Steven Gerrard for four weeks after the club captain underwent surgery on his groin.
Liverpool, who have risen to sixth under Dalglish, will be without Gerrard for Premier League matches at Sunderland and West Bromwich, and possibly the home match against against Manchester City on 11 April. They will definitely have to cope without him for the return leg of their last 16 Europa League tie against Braga, on 17 March. Liverpool, without both Gerrard and the ineligible Luis Suarez, were comfortably outplayed in losing the first match 1-0 in Portugal on Thursday.
There will also be repercussions for Fabio Capello, who is now expected to hand Jack Wilshere his first competitive start when England travel to Cardiff to play Wales in a Euro 2012 qualifier on 26 March. Wilshere impressed on his full debut in Denmark last month and is set to be preferred to Gareth Barry as Frank Lampard's partner in central midfield.
Should Rio Ferdinand not prove his fitness in time then the captaincy will stay with Lampard with Capello's alternatives severely limited should Lampard also pull out with injury.
Gerrard, who missed five Liverpool matches after tearing a hamstring while playing for England in November, suffered his latest injury in the 1-0 league win at Chelsea in early February. He has played since, but presumably continued to be troubled by the injury, the club opting for surgery after consulting a specialist.
Since Liverpool have won three and lost nine of their 14 away league matches they could rue Gerrard's absence at the Stadium of Light and the Hawthorns.
However, Dalglish's attacking options are growing after Andy Carroll continued his return to match fitness with an impressive 33 minutes in Braga.
"We played better once he came on and he was a good option for us," said Dalglish of the £35m striker. "That was a bit longer than he got on Sunday [when Carroll played 17 minutes against Manchester United]. We have to give him as many minutes as we can to help him regain his fitness."Reuse content