Liverpool set date for Aquilani bow

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The Independent Football

Liverpool's Alberto Aquilani is expected to be ready to launch his Premier League career at Sunderland on 17 October.

The Italian's start date is in line with the expectations of manager Rafael Benitez, who warned the Italian might need two months to recover from ankle surgery. The player is desperately needed to add guile to the Liverpool team, after a start to the season in which midfielder Javier Mascherano, by his manager's own admission, has been below his best, though it is likely to be Lucas Leiva who will make way.

Benitez will also be anxious to put his £20m investment to the test in the week during which documents prepared by merchant bankers to encourage investment in the club suggested that his budget will be locked at £20m for five years – or as long as George Gillett and Tom Hicks are proprietors. Sources close to Aquilani suggest the midfielder, who made only 14 appearances for Roma last season because of the injury, has found the break a useful part of the settling in process.

Aquilani's team-mate Dirk Kuyt believes Glen Johnson, signed from Portsmouth in the summer, has provided Liverpool with a different emphasis this season.

"Glen has done really well," said Kuyt. "He was a big signing for us but he has shown straight from the start that he is very important – both defensively and in attack. He has scored some very good goals and provided some assists. He is probably one of the best players in the team so far this season. He is still young and I think he will only get better and better."