Steven Gerrard
Liverpool\'s Gerrard watches play during their English Premier League match against Everton at Goodison Park in Liverpool. REUTERS

Liverpool are hopeful Steven Gerrard could make his first start of the season against Manchester United next week, as the club captain nears full fitness following groin surgery.

First-team coach Steve Clarke believes Gerrard is ready to return to the Liverpool starting line-up and has urged manager Kenny Dalglish to call on the 31-year-old for next week's match against Manchester United.

Gerrard has so far been restricted to substitute appearances after undergoing a groin operation in March, but Clarke hopes the midfielder will push himself to be included in next week's match.

"For Steven it's just a progression. He's coming back from a long-term injury and we'll try to treat him as cautiously and carefully as we can," Clarke told the club's Web site.

"Obviously there will be a time when he is going to have to push on - and I think this is the time now.

"We've only got a very small group of players left behind because we've got a lot away on international duty but we managed to get a lot of good work into them yesterday."

Gerrard appeared as a substitute for Liverpool's recent 2-0 derby win over Everton and Clarke is confident the club captain is prepared to start at Anfield next weekend.

"After you've been out for a long time, you struggle with the pace of the game and the size of the pitches," Clarke added.

"So we worked with him in small areas and then gradually started to make the areas bigger. Every step is important.

"He's handled the steps we've given him so far very well and we'll just look to push him on."