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Fitness Boost Expected After the International Break

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Joy around Liverpool's early season successes has been dampened slightly by a rash of injuries in the first team, but the international break should provide enough space to allow a number of important first-teamers to make their returns.

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Clive Brunskill

Aside from the questionable quality of the performances, the only downside to Liverpool's early season is the number of fitness concerns and longer-term injuries littered throughout the squad. Daniel Sturridge entered the season less than fully-fit and is arguably not there even now, and further injuries to Sebastian Coates, Joe Allen, Aly Cissokho, Glen Johnson, and Philippe Coutinho have left Brendan Rodgers with a squad that hasn't yet been at full strength in the 2013-2014 season.

But as long as the international break cooperates, that could be changing soon, with Rodgers expecting all but Coates to be back among the picking when club duties resume in two weeks' time:

"Glen's out on the field and hopefully after the international break he'll be ready to come back into the squad. We're okay. Aly Cissokho has trained over the course of the last week or so, so I think after the international break he'll be fine and fit. Joe Allen likewise - he should be ready for the Newcastle game. Glen Johnson and Coutinho will not be long after. Obviously Sebastian Coates will be that bit longer and has a bit more to do yet, but apart from that we're getting back to our numbers now."

And, barring Coates, each make their returns with a significant role to play--regardless of whether or not Rodgers sticks with the 3-5-2, Glen Johnson resumes duties as first-choice fullback or wingback, Aly Cissokho will compete directly for a spot on the left with the inconsistent Jose Enrique, Joe Allen provides another much-needed option in a central midfield picture that's anything but settled, and Philippe Coutinho...is Philippe Coutinho. Not much more that needs to be said, as you'd expect him to go straight back into the starting eleven despite a few wobbles in form prior to his shoulder injury at Swansea.

It's perhaps a little naive to expect that Liverpool's problems with injury are now over, but the four returning players provide a much-needed boost as fall fades into winter. While October might not be the most busy or challenging month on the calendar, it's an important table setter for a November slate that sees Liverpool travel to Arsenal and Everton, and a jam-packed December polished off by visits to Spurs, Manchester City, and Chelsea in a two-week span.

Liverpool will need both numbers and quality if they're going to make it to January in or around the top four, and hopefully those returning will, along with the rest of the squad, provide just that.

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