Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to play a role for Liverpool’s U23s on Friday when they take on Derby, but for now the club are trying to dial back growing expectations surrounding his journey back to full fitness and first team action.
“It’s a possibility,” was all U23 coach Neil Critchley would commit to on Monday night following the mini-derby when asked about Oxlade-Chamberlain. “I think it will depend on how he goes during this week, in terms of his training.
“As the manager has previously said, there’s no rush. We’re not getting him back for a particular game. We have to do the right thing by him. If that situation arises on Friday, then it will be fantastic to see Alex back on the pitch.”
There have been suggestions the player is already pencilled in for a 60-minute appearance, and that he was even ready to play Monday against Everton—but coaches believed it best not to bring him back in a derby match, even at the U23 level.
It’s likely, then, that no matter Critchley’s attempts to dial down expectations, Oxlade-Chamberlain will play on Friday, an appearance in line with his continued recovery and stated targets of a first team return around the start of April.
Having begun to work his way back into full training with his teammates a month ago, that timeline would now give the 25-year-old another three to four weeks of high-intensity training along with a handful of U23s appearances.
It would, in essence, serve as Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pre-season, and he could also soon be joined—at least at the U23 level—by Rhian Brewster, though Critchley noted that the young striker is a “bit further behind.”