Steven Gerrard may have to undergo surgery next week to repair an injury to his groin, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez revealed yesterday.
Gerrard misses today's trip to Fulham with the strain he picked up on international duty with England in Ukraine almost three weeks ago. The Liverpool captain has managed only 25 minutes of action since then, in last week's 2-1 defeat in the Champions League to Lyon at Anfield, when he aggravated the injury and limped off.
Benitez yesterday admitted that Gerrard will require surgery next week if the injury fails to respond to physiotherapy, which could keep him sidelined for a further three weeks.
Asked if Gerrard would need an operation, Benitez said: "I'm not sure. He's working with the physios. They are working very hard with him. Now we have to be careful because we don't want to take any risks.
"We are working with him and we will see how he progresses. If he cannot improve in a few days we will analyse the situation. We have to analyse if he has pain or not and talk with the doctor and physios every day.
"It's a difficult situation. He has a pain in his groin. We are working with him and he has no power. It's not because of the muscle, it's because of the pain in the muscle so they are working there. If he's not doing well next week, we have to decide [on an operation]."
Gerrard's slow recovery has left Liverpool's medical staff puzzled and concerned. It is the third time he has suffered with a groin strain this year, having missed games in April and August.
Benitez admitted the lack of recovery has been a major concern. "He's not progressing as we were expecting. He's not doing better so it's the same situation as before. We thought he could be ready for the last game, but it's the same."
The Liverpool manager revealed Gerrard is struggling to cope with the frustration of not being able to perform, while adding it is the 29-year-old's style of play that makes him susceptible to this kind of strain.
"He's worried. He's a little bit low because he thought he could be better. He still has the same problem," Benitez said. "The kind of player he is, he's very powerful, strong. He has energy and power. For Stevie, being very powerful, it's more difficult for him to be always right. He cannot kick long balls properly. It's not much but it's enough that he cannot play comfortably."
Benitez refused to blame England manager Fabio Capello for the injury. "When a player is injured it doesn't matter afterwards," he said. "It does not matter if it's his problem, our problem or England's problem. At the end of the day, he went to play with them, he got injured, we brought him back, we tried to put him on the pitch, but after 25 minutes he couldn't. Now we have a problem and we have to find solutions."
Liverpool, who trail leaders Chelsea by six points in the Premier League, will also travel to Fulham without England defender Glen Johnson, whose torn calf muscle kept him out of the midweek Carling Cup defeat at Arsenal. Benitez said: "We are really disappointed because he was training and the day before the Arsenal game he felt something and he couldn't play against them. Maybe he will be out for four or five days."
Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani, who made his first-team debut midweek at Arsenal, has picked up a virus and cannot play, while Fernando Torres is expected to start against Fulham. Liverpool then travel to Lyon on Wednesday after two defeats in their first three Champions League games.