Brendan Rodgers believes Daniel Sturridge will be fit for Liverpool's vital trip to Crystal Palace on Monday despite revealing the England striker has not resumed full training following a hamstring injury.
Sturridge has not started a game for the Premier League leaders since limping out of the win over Manchester City almost three weeks ago and was restricted to a substitute's role in last Sunday's defeat by Chelsea. The 23-goal forward has undergone an intensive rehabilitation programme and trained under the watchful eye of Liverpool's medical staff since the City game but has been unable to take part in full first-team sessions.
Rodgers admits the injury, caused when Sturridge fell awkwardly under a challenge from Pablo Zabaleta at Anfield, is more serious than Liverpool initially thought. But the Liverpool manager is confident the England international will have a greater influence at Selhurst Park than he was able to exert in his 32-minute appearance against Chelsea, with his side needing victory on Monday to keep the title pressure on Manuel Pellegrini's team.
"Initially they thought the hamstring injury was not going to be as bad as what it was," Rodgers said. "He has trained with the medical team and he worked hard to push himself to make an impact against Chelsea but it was clear that impact was not going to work for us. He has been in a much better phase this week and feels a lot better and he will certainly be in contention for the game on Monday."
Rodgers claimed Liverpool's preparations for Palace commenced during their 2-0 loss to Chelsea last Sunday, stating in the aftermath of the defeat that José Mourinho's tactics had shown his side how to deal with "long balls forward" and "long throws". The Liverpool manager has since phoned Mourinho to congratulate him on Chelsea's performance at Anfield, ensuring there is no lingering animosity between the friends, but maintains the defeat delivered a valuable lesson that will be learned.
"He is a friend of mine," said Rodgers of the call to Mourinho. "I was disappointed with the result but, after I watched the game back twice, I offered my congratulations to a friend because his team defended very well. Now we have to move on.
"The job for me now is to help the players find solutions in games like that. We have shown over the course of the season that we can play many different ways, counterattacking or possession. I analysed the game and there were lots of parts that were very good. If a team plays with six along the back line, with three in front of them, we have to find the solution. That is my job. The crime is not losing the game but finding the solutions next time. The players have responded brilliantly this week.
"It is clear that our methods have worked this season. What we did against Chelsea was run out of patience in the game and that is something we will have to get used to next season in the Champions League. That is natural. We are not perfect. I have always said that. It will help us going forward, there's no doubt about that. One of my strengths as a coach is to learn and the players here are great learners.
"Our patience ran out in the last 20 minutes but that is natural against a team that was in the Champions League semi-finals and has the experience of Chelsea. We totally controlled the game with the ball. We had 73% possession but my focus is on dangerous position in the final third and we didn't have enough of that."
The destiny of the Premier League title will be back in Liverpool's hands should City drop points at Everton on Saturday and Rodgers is convinced there will be another twist in this season's three-way fight. "I believe there will [be a twist]," he added.
"This is a time for perspective. Manchester City have a tough game at Everton. I have read a few things this week saying Everton won't want to do Liverpool a favour. Everton are a great club, they have been excellent this season and they still have a chance of Champions League qualification and will be looking to win. Our aim is to win our last two games and see where that takes us."