Lucas Leiva is on course to make his Liverpool return next weekend, almost exactly a year after his injury nightmares began.
• Whalley: Problems remain
Lucas, 25, is close to a comeback after coming through a 61-minute run-out for the club-s Under-21 side on Friday.
The Brazil international featured as an overage player for the development squad which defeated Middlesbrough 1-0 at Kirkby.
It was Lucas's first action since sustaining a thigh injury against Manchester City in the Premier League on August 26 and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is hoping that the midfielder will be able to play some part against Southampton at Anfield on December 1.
That will be a year and two days after he suffered cruciate knee ligament damage during a League Cup quarter-final at Chelsea, an injury that caused him to miss the second half of last season.
He returned to training in July, only to be forced out of action again the following month with his thigh problem.
"I think after this run-out and a good week's training, next week he should be ready," Rodgers said. "He'll be a big player for us. He's got a wonderful football brain, knows the ideas we're trying to implement here and he's a real good man.
"Lucas has worked very hard. He was unfortunate that he got the injury right at the start of the season having worked so hard on his knee, but indirectly his movement is a lot better now with his knee. He's had extra working time to prepare that and now he looks really strong and fit."