Steven Gerrard hopes to return for Liverpool in four weeks having been ruled out of the club's demanding festive programme with a hamstring injury.
The Liverpool captain will miss away fixtures at Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Chelsea, plus home games with Cardiff City and Hull City, after scans confirmed he strained a hamstring during the 4-1 defeat of West Ham United on Saturday.
Liverpool feared the 33-year-old could be sidelined for six weeks with the problem, meaning he would be absent until Aston Villa's arrival at Anfield on 18 January, but the England captain is expected to recover inside a month. Gerrard is targeting a return for the FA Cup third-round tie against Mansfield Town or Oldham Athletic on the first weekend of January or, should Brendan Rodgers avoid a risk in the cup, the following week's Premier League trip to Stoke City.
Gerrard has featured in every league game this season for second-placed Liverpool and his absence represents a major blow for Rodgers, who is already without the striker Daniel Sturridge until the new year with an ankle injury and the left-back José Enrique until February.
Liverpool's midfield options could be diminished further for Sunday's visit to White Hart Lane with Jordan Henderson feeling the effects of the foul that resulted in Kevin Nolan's dismissal for West Ham at Anfield. Henderson's foot has been in a protective boot since Saturday but, despite the England international struggling with a badly bruised ankle, Liverpool remain hopeful he will recover in time to face Spurs.
Gerrard's injury is likely to lead to a recall for Lucas Leiva, who lost his regular starting role following the recent defeat at Hull City. The Brazilian midfielder's place was taken by Joe Allen as Liverpool responded with emphatic home defeats of Norwich City and West Ham and, following his first back-to-back league starts for 12 months, the Wales international believes he can start to show why Rodgers paid £15m to sign him from Swansea City.
Allen said: "I've struggled with different injury problems but you'd hope that they're behind me now and I can focus on getting out there and playing more and more. The manager has just told me to be ready for when my opportunity comes and to get back to my best. That will come with game time. Nothing has changed really. But everything comes together with playing time, so I'm looking to getting a string of games and showing what I can do."
The midfielder also praised the ruthlessness that has helped Rodgers' team become the second-highest goalscorers in the Premier League this season. "I think every now and again, you have a minor setback," added Allen. "But we're getting much more consistent and ruthless with our performances. We're clinical. We're putting teams away quite comfortably at times, which is a great thing to have. It does make it more daunting for the team coming to Anfield."