LIVERPOOL have been dealt a huge blow ahead of their crunch Champions League trip to Lyon after captain Steven Gerrard was ruled out through injury.
The England midfielder, one of four Reds players who will definitely miss the match, has failed to recover from the groin injury that kept him out of the last two games. Defenders Martin Skrtel and Martin Kelly and winger Albert Riera are the other confirmed absentees for a match Liverpool cannot afford to lose.
Under-fire manager Rafael Benitez, who has seen his side slump to six defeats in seven games, could have £20m summer signing Alberto Aquilani available.
But the Spaniard will wait until closer to kick-off before deciding on Aquilani, Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson, Fabio Aurelio and David Ngog.
“Aquilani had a virus. He trained today but was a little bit weak. Hopefully in two days’ time he will be better,” said Benitez.
“Gerrard won’t travel to Lyon. He has no chance. He is improving but we have to wait. He has had an injection but we have to wait two or three days and see how he reacts.”
Fernando Torres is in contention, despite being withdrawn after an hour of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Fulham, which Benitez insists was a precautionary measure.
“I was surprised with the critics after the game because Fernando has had problems in the last month after the international games,” he said. “He is not comfortable. He has not got the power he had before, so we have to manage and try to protect him.”
Defeat at Craven Cottage was Liverpool’s fifth in the Premier League already this season, but goalkeeper Pepe Reina insists they are still in the title hunt.
“It’s not even close to being over,” he said. “We have to go game by game. Now we must focus on Lyon, which is massive, and after that Birmingham is a must-win game.”