Philippe Coutinho is ready to hand Liverpool fans an early Christmas present after revealing he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from an ankle injury.
The Brazilian was expected to be sidelined until the middle of January after sustaining a bang on the ankle during the 2-0 victory over Sunderland on November 26.
But after making rapid progress, Coutinho has told the club’s official website that he could be on track for an earlier-than expected return, with the clash against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve, his goal.
“This is still my hope – to return for this game,” he said.
“The rehab is going really well. I can now walk without crutches and I am working well with the medical team. So I’m pleased with how I am recovering.”
Coutinho was stretchered off against the Black Cats at Anfield and initially it was feared he could be facing surgery and a lengthy lay-off.
“Straight after the game, when I first saw the pictures and videos of my injury, I was a little scared,” he added.
In his absence, Liverpool have been beaten at Bournemouth and were held 2-2 by West Ham at Anfield to trail leaders Chelsea by six points and Coutinho admits it’s been frustrating having to sit on the sidelines.
Despite the setbacks which have seen Liverpool fall six points behind league leaders Chelsea, Coutinho is confident his team-mates will return to form against Middlesbrough.
“Obviously I have been very frustrated, because like any player who is injured, it is tough to watch rather than play and help the team,” he added.
“The last game was a draw and not the result we wanted, but the team still has great quality and I am certain in the next game we will come back stronger.”