Steven Gerrard is poised to make his long-awaited comeback as Liverpool look to forget their Premier League problems by beating Brighton in their third round League Cup clash on Wednesday.
Gerrard has not played since suffering a groin problem in March which required surgery, but manager Kenny Dalglish is set to use the game to ease his influential captain back into action after six months on the sidelines. Two successive league defeats, including a 4-0 hammering at Tottenham on Sunday, have marred Liverpool's solid start to the season, but the return of the England midfielder will lift spirits.
"I've said all along, he's done fantastically well to get where he is," said Dalglish when asked about the imminent return of Gerrard. "We'll just monitor him and pick the right moment for him and us before we get him back. It's natural everyone wants to chase Stevie, especially after you have lost 4-0. But we'll monitor it, take it how it goes and when both parties agree he'll play."
Gerrard has not been seen in action since helping Liverpool defeat Manchester United 3-1 at Anfield on 6 March. He resumed full training two weeks ago and emerged unscathed after taking part in a practice match last week.
"Now I'm back in with the boys, it's a completely different ball game - it's a lot tougher, quicker and I've struggled the last two days, so I'm really tired at the moment," said Gerrard earlier this month. "But I'm back in full training and looking forward to being involved with the lads in games in the coming weeks."
Teenagers Danny Wilson, John Flanagan and Jack Robinson are also expected to feature in a much-changed side from the one on duty at White Hart Lane, where Liverpool finished with nine men after Charlie Adam and Martin Skrtel were sent off. Both players will be suspended for the trip to the south coast as a result.
Brighton are currently third in the Championship after being promoted from the third tier last season, and manager Gus Poyet is confident his players can give a good account of themselves during a hectic 48 hours which also sees Brighton entertain Leeds on Friday. "I need to manage the squad and the team the right way, to have a decent team against Liverpool and a very, very good team against Leeds on Friday but it's going to be tough," said Poyet.
Full-back Marcos Painter will miss the tie through suspension following his sending off for two bookable offences during the 1-0 defeat to Leicester last Saturday.