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FOOTBALL: Owen aim is to lead Reds' bid for double; LIVERPOOL v CHARLTON.

MICHAEL OWEN is desperate to spearhead Liverpool in the final stages of their assault on the double.

England star Owen has fully recovered from the latest injury to his problem hamstring.

And caretaker boss Phil Thompson insists the striker will be "chomping at the bit" when he returns to the Premiership leaders' side for today's crucial clash against Charlton at Anfield.

Thompson said: "Michael is fully fit. He's fitter than he's been for the past few weeks.

"It was good that we did not rush him back and tried to do what was right by him.

"He was involved in the Chelsea game and had 45 minutes with England so I would think he'd be chomping at the bit now."

In reality, Liverpool don't appear to have missed him as they have extended an unbeaten league run to 11 games and reached the Champions League last eight.

But they will still welcome him back as the scoring star who could make all the difference as they attempt to capture the championship for the first time since 1990 and make further progress in Europe.

The latest in a series of hamstring problems have restricted the 22-year-old to bit parts in recent weeks.

His last full game was in the Champions League draw with Galatasaray in Istanbul on February 26.

Thompson will consult his boss Gerard Houllier - who will be on the bench for the third time since recovering from life-saving heart surgery in October - before the line-up is announced.

England midfielder Steven Gerrard is again ruled out, although there is hope he will be fit for Wednesday's visit of Bayer Leverkusen.

Portuguese defender Abel Xavier is a doubt with a hamstring injury.

The big decision will be on the partner for Owen.

With the challenging card ahead, Heskey could be on the bench, held back for any emergency against Charlton and the European task, when Anelka will be ineligible.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 30, 2002
Words:318
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