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Fringe First Teamers Target Playing Time

After they both spent a year struggling with injuries, Martin Kelly and Fabio Borini are determined to prove they deserve regular minutes in the league.

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Clint Hughes

After missing almost the entire 2012-13 season with a ruptured ACL, defender Martin Kelly continued his efforts to work his way back into first team contention on Monday night with the U21s. It's been a tough few years for the big defender, but all Kelly is focused on now is getting his full fitness back and getting another chance to prove he has a future as a Premier League starter.

"It was good to get the first 90 minutes under my belt after so long," said Kelly following his participation in Monday's 4-2 victory with the U21s against Manchester United. "I played last week in a behind closed doors friendly but to get 90 minutes for the U21s was superb for me and my fitness.

"I just want to get as many games in as I can. I missed so much last season and it's difficult mentally coming back from 11 months out and knowing you are not where you were last pre-season, because I started the last pre-season flying and that's where I want to get back to."

Two of those goals in Monday's U21 victory came from Fabio Borini, who arrived from Roma last summer in a £10.5M deal that heaped plenty of pressure on the then 21-year-old striker to deliver quickly. Borini, though, was beset by multiple injures and struggled to get a consistent run of games when he was fit.

Despite his age, it is a first impression that has left many Liverpool fans doubting whether the striker will be able to make a long-term impact at the club and an injury record that has many wondering if he can even be counted on as a squad player. Kelly, though, believes that Borini can also put his injuries behind him in the coming season.

"Fabio worked his socks off in pre-season and he got his rewards [on Monday night]," said the defender. "It has maybe not gone his way in pre-season when he's had the chance but all he can do is crack on. You are only as good as your last game and I thought he was superb."

And for his part, Borini recognises he may have to put in some time at the U21 reserves level before getting the chance to prove his worth in the league, with both his fitness and last January's arrival of Daniel Sturridge and this summer's signing of Iago Aspas having pushed him down the depth chart.

"I enjoyed the goals and it was good to play 90 minutes again," said the Italian-born striker who came up through Chelsea's youth academy under Brendan Rodgers. "I can take a lot of confidence from the game. After the Euros I've been playing well and it was great to get these two goals to take on board for the weekend.

"The team were great and I know it's not easy when you get a player in at the last minute but they welcomed me and was good to play with them."

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