After facing a difficult holiday stretch that severely tested Liverpool's squad depth, Brendan Rodgers heads into the coming weeks with a squad working its way back to full fitness. The manager revealed that Joe Allen has returned to training, and Mamadou Sakho is likely to be in contention to at least make the bench.
Though Jon Flanagan and Jose Enrique are still out, both are expected back over the next week or two, leaving only Daniel Agger and Sebastian Coates as long-term injury concerns. To suggest the returning players will be like new signings might be a stretch, but they certainly won't hurt Liverpool's chances.
"We've got Joe Allen back," Rodgers told the assembled media at his pre-Aston Villa press conference today. "Joe returned in training and we'll just wait and see how Sakho is over the next day or so. We're slowly getting our players back. Jon Flanagan and Jose Enrique are still out but we're looking better."
Sakho returned to training ahead of last weekend's match against Stoke City but wasn't fit enough to make the bench, and so while the defender may be favoured to at least be an option off the bench this week, expecting Allen to be right back in the mix after only a day or two of training is likely too optimistic.
One player certain to be more than an option is Daniel Sturridge, who made his return to action off the bench last week and didn't look to have missed a beat. In fact, after a string of minor knocks left the striker looking jaded at times in the autumn, Rodgers believes the time off will have done him good.
"This period out with injury has refreshed him mentally," said the manager when asked about Sturridge's recent return from the sidelines. "He comes back in the second part of the season now in a real good moment. I think it really signified how hard he worked in his injury period when he came into the game at the weekend.
"He made an immediate impact, physically he looked very strong and mobile and fast in his reactions. That's a great credit to him and how focused he's been on getting back. He has every tool, he has every quality to be a world-class striker, similar to what Luis Suarez is."
That just leaves the question of who gets to play behind Rodgers' two strikers, with one of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, or Jordan Henderson almost certain to move to the bench on Saturday.