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Football: Doubt hanging over Kewell start to season; Midfielder in race to be fit for Liverpool.

Byline: BY IAN DOYLE Chief Football Correspondent

HARRY KEWELL'S Liverpool future has suffered a setback with the midfielder facing a race against time to be fit for the start of the season.

The 27-year-old was forced to miss Australia's World Cup second-round defeat to Italy last week with an infected blister on his foot.

But it is his ongoing groin and ankle problems that are endangering Kewell's availability for the start of the season, with Liverpool taking on Chelsea in the Community Shield on Sunday, August 13 before beginning their Premiership campaign at Sheffield United six days later.

While Kewell is currently working with the Liverpool medical staff at Melwood to continue his rehabilitation, Australia have privately conceded his chances of being fit for their Asian Cup qualifier against Kuwait on August 16 are slim.

And that must cast into doubt his fitness for the start of the league season, with Kewell facing increased competition down the left flank from new arrivals Fabio Aurelio and Mark Gonzalez.

Kewell is one of several Australia players considering retirement from the national team but has delayed any decision until he regains fitness.

"I've got to see what happens with my fitness in the immediate future and try to get everything right," said Kewell. "I'm not thinking about anything except getting myself fit again and doing well at club level."

Kewell was originally thought to have missed the game with Italy due to gout, but it transpired the infected blister was such that it would have ruled him out of the quarter-final had Australia progressed.

"The foot has settled down and it is an infection rather than gout," said Kewell's agent, Bernie Mandic. "His foot got bigger and bigger and the drugs he was on would have made the gout better if it had been that. Unfortunately, if we had played against Ukraine then Harry would not have played a second. The infection got that bad."

Reports that Kewell is now destined for an Anfield exit following Gonzalez's successful work permit application are premature, however, although Tottenham Hotspur are thought to be tracking the winger.

Meanwhile, Liverpool remain Daniel Alves's preferred destination, according to the player's agent.

Liverpool have grown frustrated at their attempts to sign the right-sided Brazilian player, with his club Sevilla understood to be unable to agree the payment plan of a deal that would ultimately be worth in the region of pounds 11million.

The impasse has sparked interest from several other clubs, but Alves's agent Jose Rodriguez Baster insists the player wants to move to Liver pool.

"It is true that at the moment there are difficulties with the deal," said Baster. "There is an economic difference between what Sevilla are demanding and what Liverpool are willing to pay. We need to try and reach a compromise and we will try to do this in the next few days.

"Liverpool is Daniel's first option and he wants to play with them despite interest from other clubs. He wants to play in England and that is the most important thing." Deportivo La Coruna hope to complete the signing of Antonio Barragan on a permanent transfer, although Liverpool would retain an option to buy the player back under the terms of the deal. Real Betis also continue to track the 19-year-old right-back.

Marseille make claim over Cisse SEE PAGE 39
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 7, 2006
Words:558
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