Previews: Gerrard back to boost Liverpool

LONDON - Liverpool's hopes of prising the Premier League title from Manchester United's grip will be boosted by the return of captain Steven Gerrard for Sunday's match at home to Newcastle United.

Midfield general Gerrard missed Liverpool's Champions League exit at Chelsea and the costly 4-4 home draw with Arsenal in the league last week with a groin injury.

His return is good news for Liverpool, who are three points behind Manchester United with four games left, but not a pleasant thought for Newcastle boss Alan Shearer whose side are fighting to cling on to their Premier League status.

"Steven is doing well and is training with the rest of the team," manager Rafael Benitez told Liverpool's website.

"I think he will be fit and available for Sunday. It is good news for the team and for him because he can be a key player for us over the remaining games."

Liverpool know they cannot afford to drop any more points this season while hoping United, who have five games left, stumble.

Manchester United travel to relegation battlers Middlesbrough for an early kickoff on Saturday, having edged Arsenal 1-0 in their Champions League semi-final, first leg on Wednesday.

It will be a quick turnaround for United, who have a major doubt over Rio Ferdinand after he picked up a rib injury against Arsenal, but Benitez will not be holding out too much hope of an upset.


Boro have shown some fight in recent weeks but slipped to second from bottom, below Newcastle on goal difference, when Newcastle drew 0-0 with Portsmouth on Monday.

Both are three points behind fourth-from-bottom Hull City who travel to Aston Villa on Monday.

Any points Newcastle or Boro pick up this weekend would be a huge boost to their chances of staying up, especially as they face each other next week.

Newcastle have not won any of the four games since former striker Shearer was put in charge, scoring just one goal, but he said they would go to Anfield in a positive mood.

"Obviously we are underdogs but we must believe we can get something," Shearer told the club's website. "We're still in there."

Third-placed Chelsea have not officially given up the chase, although they are six points adrift of United having played a game more.

They host local rivals Fulham on Saturday but their eyes will likely be on Wednesday's Champions League semi-final, second leg at home to Barcelona after a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp made Guus Hiddink's side favourites to reach the final.

"We know where our focus is, it is the Champions League," midfielder Michael Ballack told Chelsea's website. "I think every fan would understand if (Hiddink) rested players."