Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will move a step closer to his long-awaited return to first-team football with a 45-minute outing for the under-23s on Friday.
The England international has been sidelined by a serious knee injury since last April but will step up his comeback with his first match action away at Derby in a Premier League 2 fixture.
“Probably it will be 45 minutes and that’s absolutely OK,” manager Jurgen Klopp told liverpoolfc.com.
Another significant step on the road back to full fitness! 💪
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 7, 2019
“It is a bit difficult for Critch (under-23s boss Neil Critchley) when the manager tells you to make a change at half-time but it’s nice for Ox.
“All that we saw so far in training looks really good, it looks really exciting, but we all know it is a massive difference between each training session you have and playing a proper game.
“There is absolutely no expectation on the game (for him) apart from go through it, tick that box, come back and go on training again.
“It doesn’t say anything about him ‘being ready for five days later’ or whatever, it is just a first – and very important – step.
“As I said, in training Ox is back but now we have to make sure we really prepare him for the rest of his career and the rest of this season.”
After such a long lay-off Oxlade-Chamberlain will be eased back in and it is unlikely he will come into contention for a first-team squad place until after the international break later this month.
“He needs matches and as many as possible, but we are in the middle of the season and will not say now, ‘You need six or seven matches until you are ready’,” added Klopp.
“It is about getting him the experience again on the pitch, getting him back in this one and then using him minute-by-minute on the pitch.
“As long as all the other players are fit and stuff like that, we will have to see who can help the team more when he is finally back.
“What people make of that, he should not care. I don’t care if people then say, ‘Why is he not playing?’ and stuff like that.
“I am really excited about it, but he was so long out that having him in training is already a massive difference.
“Let’s see how he reacts. There is nothing to think about before the international break, which from now is around three weeks, so then let’s see.”
Central defender Dejan Lovren, who has not featured since the FA Cup defeat to Wolves two months ago due to a hamstring problem, returned to training on Thursday and is in contention for a place in Sunday’s squad to face Burnley.