Aurelio to fight for improved fitness
Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio is determined to put his injury problems behind him by doing extra preparation this summer in order to be ready for the new campaign. While the squad are due back for pre-season training in early July, the Brazilian plans to put in additional hours in order to give him the best possible chance of remaining fitter for longer.
The 31-year-old has struggled with injuries during his five-year stay at Anfield and that persuaded then manager Rafael Benitez that he could not risk offering the player a contract extension last summer. However, with cover so desperately short at left-back Aurelio was surprisingly re-signed by Benitez's successor Roy Hodgson at the end of July as a quick-fix replacement.
It was a decision which did not pay off as the defender played only 21 matches as injuries once again disrupted his season, leaving the side having to fill in with makeshift left-backs Daniel Agger, Danny Wilson and Glen Johnson on several occasions.
But Aurelio hopes that with the extra work he will do over the summer - he is remaining on Merseyside as his wife is expecting a baby next month - and a full pre-season programme, he will be of more assistance in the final year of his contract.
"I expected to be more available once again but it was good to finish with a 90-minute game (at Aston Villa on Sunday)," he said. "That will bring my confidence up to work hard in the summer and be well prepared in pre-season so next season will be better. I have to prepare myself better than the normal work they give to the whole squad.
"I will do something more and as my wife is due to have a baby it will be a good time to prepare myself, using the Liverpool facilities and looking forward to the summer and pre-season. My hope is to be available more than I was this season and if I can do that I will have a chance to have more minutes."
Left-back is an area manager Kenny Dalglish has to prioritise in the transfer window as he utilised the right-sided Johnson there for most of his six months in charge while also bringing in 17-year-old Jack Robinson from the reserves.
The future of Emiliano Insua, who spent the whole of last season on loan at Galatasaray, has yet to be decided but if Aurelio can get himself fully fit at the very least he will provide adequate back-up for a first-choice left-back. He looks at the situation rather differently, however, and is not concerned by the added competition.
"It is always good that the club try to keep the squad as strong as possible and it (the prospect of new signings) is welcome for the good of the team," he added. "My worries are in myself in being fit and available because I believe I have the ability to fight for a place in the team."
The absence of European competition for the first time in 11 years will be of help in some respects as Liverpool will play fewer than the 54 fixtures they had this season. And with Dalglish set for his first full year back in control, the prospects are much better than they were 12 months ago.
"It was a disappointing end to the season to finish with two defeats (against Tottenham and Aston Villa)," said Aurelio. "But looking back to the position we were in when Kenny took over (12th) I think the team has improved and had a good campaign, even though it is not the one everyone expected.
"The hopes will be higher for next season and I think everyone is looking forward to it. We can put our strength and concentration on the league."