Liverpool is hopeful that Andy Carroll will make his club debut early next month, raising the tantalizing prospect of the £35m record signing taking his bow against Manchester United at Anfield.
The manager Kenny Dalglish has consistently declined to set a time-frame on Carroll's recovery from the thigh injury that has kept him sidelined since 28 December. The 22-year-old has suffered several setbacks with an injury that Newcastle United, his former club, initially believed would result in a three-week absence. He visited a specialist in Sweden before becoming the costliest British footballer on transfer deadline day.
Carroll has now resumed light training with Liverpool and is targeting a comeback in early March. Dalglish's team entertain Sir Alex Ferguson's league leaders on 6 March and will also face a Europa League tie on 10 March providing they overcome Sparta Prague in the last 32 of the competition. The first leg of that tie takes place in Prague on Thursday.
Liverpool's £57.8m deadline day capture of Carroll and Luis Suárez helped cushion the impact of the £50m departure of Fernando Torres to Chelsea. Jamie Carragher believes the club's new strike partnership will bring added momentum to Dalglish's reign.
"I was delighted to get them in and the club made a statement," said the Liverpool vice-captain. "Suárez has made a great start. He's got the goal, but it's his performances more than anything. With Carroll coming back, it looks the perfect partnership. Someone the size of Andy Carroll and then Suárez, it looks good."
Despite the arrivals at Anfield, Carragher admitted the timing of Torres's exit was unfortunate. "I'd have loved him to stay and I wish he would have given us to the end of the season," he said. "For two or three years for us he's been the best striker in the world. The disappointing thing is the timing of it but the start of the season hasn't gone well.
"I think it was something we were expecting either now or maybe in the summer. It's happened, good luck to him there, and I'm pleased with who we've brought in. We've got to look to the future."