Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp delivered a hugely promising update on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, after confirming that the midfielder is on course for a return to first team training in February.
The former Arsenal star suffered a serious knee injury in the Reds' Champions League semi-final clash with AS Roma last season, which caused the 25-year-old to miss both the final of the competition and England's entire World Cup campaign.
Despite initially being thought to be ruled out for the entire campaign this year, Klopp revealed that Oxlade-Chamberlain's progress has been well ahead of schedule and is targeting a comeback to training in the next couple of months.
Speaking about the England star's latest fitness update, the Liverpool boss said (as quoted by the Liverpool Echo): "It’s the best news. He started going out on the pitch and from the first step looked completely normal.
“With Ox, from the first step, it looked like Ox. It was really nice and there was no reaction. No pressure on him, huh? It looks like February being back in normal training. Late February, maybe March. It gives us hope he will be back in this season.”
He added: "It’s a boost for the entire dressing room because he is such a big part of that. We try not to push him too much but we don’t want to hold him back.
“If he makes further steps like he did in the last few weeks he can play Premier League football this season which is nice to know.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain is the most physically freakish player I've seen at Liverpool. Not really surprised he's well ahead of schedule.— David (@DerKopite) December 28, 2018
Will need to calm it with the high-intensity sprints though - even if it is a great part of his game.
He said: "That is not the Unai Emery I know. This is not them waving the white flag. It will be a really tough game. We are focused on ourselves.
“They are good, strong with the ball and very lively. Their counter-attacks are crazy-quick. Aubameyang and Lacazette are a good strike two. Outstanding strikers up front, quick on the wings, a really good team.”
Klopp also confirmed that vice-captain James Milner will not be available for the Reds at the weekend due to a slight hamstring problem, but may return for the trip to Manchester City.