Liverpool full-back Jon Flanagan is looking forward to his return to action in order to compete with summer signings Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo for a starting spot in Brendan Rodgers' line-up.
After playing an impressive role during the second half of the campaign last season, while covering absences of Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson due to injury, Flanagan was expected to feature in Rodgers' team this season, with his contract at Anfield is due to expire in the summer.
But the 22-year old versatile defender suffered a knee injury against Preston North End in a pre-season friendly on 19 July and has since been unable to play.
Even though the Anfield academy star planned to return to action earlier in the season, Rodgers revealed in September that he required surgery due to a setback in the recovery process.
Flanagan has now suggested he is finally closing in on a return and believes the increasing competition for the full-back positions following the summer arrivals of Moreno and Manquillo will see him improving.
"When I saw that we signed two full-backs, I immediately thought 'I need to up my game now'. I know I need to consistently do well if I'm to get in the team and then stay there," Flanagan said to Liverpool's official website.
"I want to keep developing as a footballer. That's why not being available has been so frustrating. But competition for places doesn't bother me. I'm always up for the fight."
After a frustrating long-term spell on the sidelines, Flanagan does not provide an specific date to return but is confident on regaining a place in the Liverpool line-up during the second part of the campaign.
He said: "I've got in the team before and kept my place. Now I need to do that again."
"I've been out for what has felt like a really long time. It's been very frustrating. When the rest of the lads have been travelling to away games, I've been in having treatment or doing rehab work.
"That is one of the downsides of football that people don't see. You're out of routine because you are used to training and playing, being around the squad and having a laugh on a daily basis.
"Once you are injured, your schedule changes completely. You have to rest on different days and work on other areas - it's not nice but it has to be done and will be worth all the effort in the end."