Skrtel keen to regain place but Benayoun talks of exit

Defender pledges to work hard to win back centre-back berth from Agger
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The Independent Football

The Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel is targeting a return sooner than anticipated after recovering from a knee injury. The Slovakia centre-back damaged posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee after falling awkwardly during a match against Manchester City in October. He did not require surgery.

"I don't know exactly the date but the predictions were for before Christmas and I am hoping it is as soon as possible," Skrtel said. "It has been a long time. I can't wait to start kicking a ball again and resume full training. It has been six weeks since the injury and I have stopped using the crutches, but obviously I have work to do in order to get the ligament back to what it was before."

Skrtel knows it will be tough dislodging Daniel Agger or Sami Hyypia, who have played alongside Jamie Carragher at centre-back. "It will be difficult to get back into the team, but I am working hard and I will do my best to impress the coach and fight for my place back," Skrtel said.

His colleague, midfielder Yossi Benayoun has warned manager Rafael Benitez that his patience is starting to wear thin after finding himself reduced to a supporting role at Anfield.

The Israel international has started just four of Liverpool's 13 Premier League matches this season, with seven further appearances coming from the bench. The 28-year-old midfielder, fears his playing time will remain restricted while Liverpool continue to perform well at the league's summit.

Benayoun has revealed he is considering a move to the continent. He said: "If the situation remains the same over the next few months, and I'm not getting more time in the middle, I will not want to continue as a Liverpool player. The fact that I have spent so much time on the bench, while there has been a winning formula on the pitch, tells you everything."

Benayoun has made 41 Premier League appearances since his £5m arrival from the Hammers in the summer of 2007, and resisted a move away from Anfield in the summer despite reported interest from the likes of Roma and Ajax.

"I hope it changes for me, because I want to stay and prove myself, but it won't be easy," he added. "I know I'm at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and that there are many good players like Ryan Babel and Jermaine Pennant who sometimes aren't even in the squad, but it's not much fun sitting on the bench all the time." He added: "I always wanted to prove myself good enough for Liverpool, and I thought I did well last season to contribute so many goals and assists. But there seems to be more competition for places this time, and if I continue to be on the sidelines, I would not want to stay, even though it is Liverpool. Maybe I will have to accept that and start learning another language, such as Italian or French or even Russian."

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard admits the team's fine start to the campaign has raised hopes of a first league championship since 1990.

Benitez's side lie second in the Premier League table, level on points with leaders Chelsea and eight points ahead of champions Manchester United – albeit having played a game more.

The Reds enjoyed a 2-1 home triumph over United in September and ended Chelsea's 86-match unbeaten league run at Stamford Bridge with a 1-0 victory last month. However, Gerrard knows there is a long way to go before the destination of the silverware will be determined.

"It's nice but it raises expectations," he said. "It's important to stay humble. We know we're a good team, we know we're getting closer to a title challenge – we can say that. But we've got to prove we can stay in the race to the end.

"I can understand why people are saying it. We've gone down a couple of times by goals, we haven't given up and we've managed to turn games around. So now they're saying we've got title credentials."

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