Liverpool boosted by Aquilani news

Carl Markham,Pa
Tuesday 06 October 2009 15:31 BST

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has been given some welcome good news after being told £20m summer signing Alberto Aquilani could make his long-awaited debut later this month.

The 25-year-old former Roma midfielder arrived at Anfield in August having undergone surgery on an ankle injury and has yet to make an appearance.

However, Benitez, whose side have lost successive games to Fiorentina and Barclays Premier League title rivals Chelsea, is optimistic the Italy international will soon be match fit after stepping up his rehabilitation.

"I have been speaking to the doctors and things are going well with him," the manager told the Liverpool Echo.

"Alberto is progressing all the time. It could be two to three weeks before he is back.

"But we need to use caution. We will take it one step at a time and we have the international break to look forward to now.

"That will be good for him, as he will have some more time.

"He is running and swimming - I think he will have the record in the swimming pool by the end of his programme - and he is working in the gym," said Benitez.

"He is doing almost everything and he is doing some things with the team.

"The only thing he is not doing is kick a ball - not yet any way."

Aquilani was bought as a direct replacement for Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso, who was sold to Real Madrid after a protracted transfer saga.

At the time Benitez knew the player would not be fit enough to feature early on in the season but has stressed the acquisition of the Italian was part of a long-term plan.

And although the Liverpool boss is facing more questions about his side's ability to sustain a serious title challenge after a third Premier League defeat - already more than in the whole of last season - he will not press Aquilani into action ahead of schedule.

But it seems the Italian could make his first appearance in the Carling Cup fourth round tie at Arsenal on October 28.

"We knew he had the problem but we knew we were signing the player for five years and not five weeks," he added.

"We will see if he can improve. Clearly he is a player with quality we are desperate to see on the pitch but we will not push him too much.

"He has to go one step at a time and see how he progresses."

Off the field it appears the uneasy truce which existed between Benitez and the club's American owners has been tested by the latest reported comments from George Gillett.

It has been claimed Gillett blamed any lack of improvement on the Spaniard, insisting he and co-owner Tom Hicks had done all they could in providing the necessary investment in the team.

The American's reported comments were made in a conversation with a member of the supporters' group Spirit of Shankly.

"We have invested more money than our competitors, in keeping with the history of the club," Gillett is quoted as telling the Spirit of Shankly representative prior to Liverpool's 6-1 win over Hull on September 26.

"In the last 18 months, we have invested £128million on top of what has come in. That means it should be getting better.

"Now if it's not getting better, it's not Gillett and Hicks, it's the manager, it's the scouting."

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