Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho is ready to give manager Brendan Rodgers a major fitness boost ahead of the title run-in after declaring himself injury free having not played since December.
Sakho appeared to pick up a hamstring problem in the defeat to Chelsea before the New Year but was forced to spend nearly three months on the side-lines after being then diagnosed with a tendon problem.
The French international was an unused substitute in the 3-0 weekend win over Manchester United but is now ready to make a full return to first team duty with Liverpool, a crucial boost to the Reds' creaking defence, and earn a place in France's World Cup squad after scoring twice in the play-off comeback over Ukraine.
"I feel good now and I was delighted to be on the bench for the United game," Sakho told the Liverpool Echo.
"Two and a half months is a long time to be out and it was tough. It took much longer than we thought but I had to listen to my body.
"Initially we thought it was the muscle in my hamstring but it turned out to be the tendon which was causing the problem and that took more time to heal. I worked really closely with the medical staff to get back.
"It will be difficult to get back in the team because everyone is playing well, but at a big club like Liverpool you expect competition for places.
"Things are never easy in football. I am working hard and I am ready for when the manager needs me.
"There are still nine games to play and a lot to play for. I also need to win my place in the France squad for the World Cup."
While Martin Skrtel has been a mainstay this term, fitness problems have forced Rodgers to rotate Kolo Toure and Daniel Agger for much of the season, constant changes which have contributed to the club conceding the most goals in the top four.
Successive clean sheets against Southampton and United suggest the club are turning the corner and Sakho's return adds to Rodgers' potential options between now and the season's climax.