Hamann will boost Liverpool's season, says Owen

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Michael Owen believes a fully fit Dietmar Hamann could kick-start Liverpool's season.

The German international midfielder suffered a shin injury on the club's pre-season tour to the Far East, which later required surgery. The 30-year-old has gradually regained his fitness, sharpening his touch in the reserves, and made a return to first-team action as a late substitute during the Carling Cup win over Blackburn at Ewood Park on 29 October.

Hamann has not played in the first team since, although he has been on the bench and is now pushing for a full return, which could come at Anfield on Thursday night when Liverpool host Steaua Bucharest in the Uefa Cup.

Gérard Houllier's side have failed to impress in the Premiership so far and are in eighth place, with the Liverpool manager himself conceding that the chance of the title has all but disappeared.

Liverpool scored what could be a crucial away goal when securing a 1-1 draw during the first leg of the second-round tie in Romania, and Owen believes the reintroduction of Hamann could help put the team back on track.

"Didi's been a massive loss for us this season," the England striker said. "I don't think there are many better holding midfielders in the world.

"I'm looking forward to having him fit and back in the team again, and so is everyone. He's a fantastic player for us."

Houllier has a concern over the fitness of Florent Sinama-Pongolle after the young French striker suffered an ankle injury against Middlesbrough at the weekend.

The Liverpool manager will also have to do without Steve Finnan for the next month following his calf strain at the Riverside.

Houllier said: "We won't have Steve for four weeks. It is a blow. We will look at a few options, but Salif Diao will probably play against Bucharest.

"We will also see how Florent is later in the week, but he is in treatment because of the tackle by Franck Queudrue."

Jamie Carragher remains a long-term absentee after breaking his leg during the Premiership match at Blackburn in September.

Owen revealed that the loss of the England defender has been another setback on the pitch, as well as off it.

"We miss his buzz in the dressing-room," Owen said. "He's always lively and keeps everyone on their toes. It'll be a good day when he comes back."