Liverpool could be handed a major boost with the early return of striker Daniel Sturridge after Brendan Rodgers confirmed he is ahead of schedule in his comeback from an ankle injury he sustained at the end of November.
Sturridge picked up the injury during training following the 3-3 Merseyside derby draw with Everton, but despite initial fears he would be ruled out for up to 12 weeks, the England striker could make a return on 12 January to face Stoke – just seven weeks after the original injury.
The news comes after Brendan Rodgers confirmed captain Steven Gerrard is back in contention for the New Year’s Day Premier League fixture against Hull, after he too was ruled out though injury.
The England captain pulled up with a hamstring problem during the 45-1 victory over West Ham, immediately walking off the pitch after he felt a twinge in his leg when attempting to shoot towards goal.
“Steven has rejoined training, so we'll see how he is for Hull,” said Rodgers.
“We will assess that in the next 24 hours. By the Stoke game we'll have a number of the others who will not be too far away.
“Daniel is ahead of schedule. He might not be too far over the next few weeks. He was out running the other day doing straight-line running and he is now doing more multi-directional running and then training next week and he will have a good week of training.
“Over the next couple of weeks we will get those players back and it will look a lot brighter for us.”
Gerrard’s return would prove timely if he passes a fitness test before tomorrow’s match given the news that midfielder Joe Allen will miss the match due to a groin strain, while there are doubts over defender Mamadou Sakho and central midfielder Jordan Henderson.