Sadio Mané could make a cameo in Liverpool's clash with West Ham United on Saturday evening according to Jürgen Klopp.
The Senegal international has missed the Reds' last five games in all competitions with a hamstring injury sustained on international duty in October.
The 25-year-old had not been expected back until after the international break later this month but returned to full training at the club's Melwood training ground on Thursday.
Surprised at his level of sharpness upon his first day back, Klopp suggested that Mané - who also missed three league games last month through suspension - could even come off the bench for the Premier League contest at the London Stadium.
Mané could make shock early return
Previewing the trip to the capital, Klopp told journalists: "Sadio trained yesterday for the first time with the team and looked really, really good. We will see what we do with that."
The German hinted that Mané "looked like he is ready for at least 20-25 minutes" but warned that they first must "see how his body reacts to the session."
He insisted that training was "pretty intense" for the winger "because it was his first football session for a long time", though praised him for doing "really well" and showing that he didn't lose "his abilities or skills during the injury break."
Mané has been called up for Senegal's crucial pair of World Cup qualifying clashes with South Africa after West Ham and Klopp hopes that the attacker is spared two full games.
The Reds boss revealed that the Merseyside club "will get into contact" with the Senegal FA because though Mané "is not injured anymore" he is also not 100 per-cent fit even though "he is on a good way" and "looked really good" in training.
"He has to go there, then he has a few days training and if they can get the points they need [in the first game] then maybe we can talk again and ask them if it is necessary [for Mané] to play the second game, so he could come back," Klopp continued.
He called that "the ideal situation" but insisted Liverpool "cannot decide it" and there there "are clear rules" which they "respect."
Looking towards the positives, Klopp said that game-time will be "good for his rhythm" but said that Liverpool "need to know as much as possible about the circumstances" such as what Mané does in training.
He added: "If Sadio can play I really think he should because it is good to get some rhythm. Otherwise he would not have played for I don't know how many weeks with the red card and then the injury. Then we play Southampton so it would be nice if he is in a kind of a rhythm."
Coutinho absent again
Elsewhere, Liverpool will be without midfielder Philippe Coutinho against Slaven Bilić's side due to an adductor problem that has sidelined him for the past two games.
Yet Klopp hopes that centre-back Dejan Lovren and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum can recover from injuries picked up against Huddersfield Town and Maribor to feature against the Hammers.
Klopp declared that Coutinho "is not available" and that "with the rest [of the club's injured players] it will be close."
On Wijnaldum - who had to be withdrawn early against Maribor after picking up a knock - he insisted they are "not sure" whether or not the Dutchman will be passed fit and that they "have to see."
"It's painful what he has but maybe he can cope with it. We will have to see," Klopp said, before insisting that likewise they will "have to wait until the last second" to "make the squad" and to see if Lovren - who pulled up in the warm-up against Huddersfield - will be available.