Knee injury forces Garcia to miss second-place spat with United

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The Independent Football

The Liverpool midfielder Luis Garcia may return to action in time for the FA Cup fourth-round tie at Portsmouth after a trip to Spain for specialist reports on his knee injury revealed no serious damage.

The midfielder was injured in the 2-2 draw with Bolton on 2 January after coming on as a substitute to score the equaliser, and has since been ruled out of the wins over Luton and Tottenham.

The 27-year-old has been reassured his injury is not serious and was sent back to Liverpool's Melwood training complex to continue his rehabilitation.

But it has been confirmed he will miss Sunday's Premiership match with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

A club spokesman said: "Luis travelled to Spain to see a knee specialist, who advised him to continue his rehabilitation at Melwood. It is expected he will be out for a further 10 days."

The Spain international has scored seven goals in 31 matches for Liverpool this season and was only this week named in the team of the year along with his club captain, Steven Gerrard.

Despite the loss of the former Barcelona midfielder, Liverpool are confident they can win and leapfrog United into second spot in the Premiership. The defender John Arne Riise is even bold enough to suggest second place is not Liverpool's ultimate target this term, retaining the belief that they can still catch the leaders, Chelsea.

"We're looking good at the moment," said the Norwegian. "We've got points on the board and two games in hand. But you always prefer to have the points than games to play, so we can't take anything for granted. The most important thing for us is to keep winning. If we do that then we can start hoping somewhere along the line Chelsea slip up.

"But there's no way Sunday is a game for second [place]. We're still aiming to win every game we play. If we can, then we'll see if we can catch up."

Riise is already confident Liverpool are doing much more right in this league campaign than the last one. "There were a couple of times last season when we blew it every time we had an opportunity to get some points back on the teams above us," he recalled. "That's one of the differences this year. We knew United had lost before we kicked off on Saturday against Spurs, which is why it was important we took the chance to close the gap. The fact we're now taking advantage proves we're a better team than we were."

The Liverpool striker Neil Mellor looks like staying at the club and not joining Hearts. The Jambos head coach, Graham Rix, who yesterday completed a move to bring the Scotland winger Neil McCann back for his second stint at Hearts, said it was very unlikely Mellor would follow in the Scot's footsteps.

The 23-year-old, already behind Djibril Cissé and Fernando Morientes in the Anfield pecking order, lost further ground following Peter Crouch's arrival.

But Rix said: "There are still talks going on - it's proving difficult. There are a lot of problems when you try and bring a lad in."

Another deal going awry saw Hearts' move for Racing Genk's midfielder Mirsad Beslika reportedly collapsing. But Rix said: "We're trying really hard . There are one or two little hiccups to get across."