Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has confirmed that Daniel Sturridge will start training with the first team on Sunday, insisting that the striker will make a comeback against his former side Chelsea in the second leg semi-final of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old striker, who last played for Liverpool during the Reds 3-0 victory at Tottenham on 31 August, has been on the sidelines ever since he picked up a thigh strain while training with England on 3 September.
Although he was expected to return much earlier, a string of setbacks during his rehabilitation resulted in him being sidelined for almost five months.
However, Rodgers has now confirmed that Sturridge, who recently returned to Liverpool after spending a month in a rehabilitation centre in Boston, is close to regaining his full fitness.
"Daniel starts training tomorrow with the team," Rodgers told Liverpool's official website. "He's in his final rehabilitation with the medical and sports science guys today and joins in with the group from now. It's just about getting football and game fitness."
"We'll see how he is for Tuesday [against Chelsea]. If he's not ready for Tuesday then he'll be back, for sure, against West Ham next weekend."
Meanwhile, Rodgers has fired a warning at striker Mario Balotelli, saying that the Italian will not be selected for the first team until he proves himself in training.
The 24-year-old, who has been very unimpressive following his £16 million switch from AC Milan last summer, was dropped during the Reds goal-less draw against Bolton Wanderers in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The Northern Irishman insists that the former Manchester City striker will keep finding himself on the benches unless he shows improvement during training sessions.
"I am judging it every day in training – Mario [Balotelli] is exactly the same as every other player, there is no special treatment for anyone," the former Swansea City boss told Liverpool's official website.
"Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert are working tirelessly in training and when they go on they have contributed and young Jordan Rossiter, on the bench today, has been brilliant in training and I have to judge it on that."
"If you want to contribute you have to be at it every single day in training in order to be in the squad on matchday."