Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has given the strongest indication yet that captain Steven Gerrard will be fit to face Melbourne Victory after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.
The 33-year-old midfielder missed the final two games of the 2012/13 season due to the operation in May.
But Gerrard joined his team-mates on the first day of pre-season on Tuesday, a week after he said he was 'a couple of weeks away' from returning to full training.
Rodgers told reporters Gerrard was close to full fitness, meaning facing the Victory at the MCG on July 24 as part of Liverpool's three-match Asian tour remains a distinct possibility.
"It's a big credit to him. He's worked tirelessly over the summer," Rodgers said.
"He won't be too far away. He looks great and is in great condition."
Rodgers said Gerrard, who has made over 400 appearances for Liverpool after coming through the academy, was an 'integral' part of his plans for years to come.
Gerrard has been one of Liverpool's best players in the past decade and was consistent during the 2012/13 campaign.
"He's 33 now but Steven is still an integral part of what I'm trying to do here and will be for the next few years," Rodgers said.
"He had his operation towards the end of the season and the plan was for him to continue his rehab over the off-season."
Goals from Jimmy Jeggo and Andrew Nabbout gave Victory a 2-1 win over Richmond in a pre-season friendly at Kevin Bartlett Reserve on Tuesday night.