(Reuters) - Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has confirmed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a serious knee injury and could return to training as early as February.
Oxlade-Chamberlain sustained cruciate ligament damage when going in for a tackle during their Champions League semi-final first-leg win over Italian side AS Roma at Anfield in April.
The 25-year-old underwent surgery eight days later.
He was expected to miss the entire 2018-19 campaign but Liverpool supporters were given a boost earlier this week when the English midfielder was pictured running at the club’s Melwood training ground.
“(It’s the) best news,” Klopp told a news conference on Friday. “He started going on the pitch and from the first step he looked completely normal.
“Sometimes when players are coming back from injury and start running, you see them not really limping, but it’s not the picture you had in your mind. With Ox, from the first step, it looked like Ox.
“No pressure on him, but it looks like it may be February back in normal training – late February, March, so that gives us hope that he will be back this season.”
Liverpool host Unai Emery’s Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday as they look to remain unbeaten and maintain their six-point advantage at the top of the Premier League standings.
In his own news conference, Emery said Liverpool have all the qualities to match Arsenal’s 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ by going the whole season unbeaten and lifting the title.
When asked if the comments were a form of mind games from his counterpart, Klopp said: “That is not the Unai Emery I know.
“This is not them waving the white flag. It will be a really tough game. We are focused on ourselves.”
Fifth-placed Arsenal were the last team to take a point from Liverpool in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates last month, but Emery’s side have since lost their way, dropping seven points in their last three away games.
“We were not as good as we can be defending-wise,” Klopp said of the two sides’ last meeting.
“They are good, strong with the ball and very lively. Their counter-attacks are crazy-quick.
“(Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang and (Alexandre) Lacazette are a good strike two. Outstanding strikers up front, quick on the wings - a really good team.”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge