By Merseyside correspondent Cam Downes

Daniel Sturridge is the fittest he has been for 18 months, according to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

The striker has returned to full contact training at the Merseyside club’s Melwood headquarters but he is not considered quite ready to play first-team football.

Speaking at his media briefing ahead of Liverpool’s trip to rivals Manchester United on Saturday, Rodgers would not put a timeline on Sturridge’s return but admitted he was impressed by what he has seen from the England star.

“Daniel looked very, very sharp in training yesterday and probably the best he has looked fitness wise 18 months,” said Rodgers.

“There is no timeline on when he will be fit to participate. From experience I don’t want to put any timeline on him coming back, he has worked very hard in America with people over there and our medical team has done a brilliant job.”

Liverpool are taking a cautious approach to the fitness of the 26-year-old following a nightmare 12 months in which he has suffered four separate serious injuries.

Reports have suggested Sturridge could be in line for a comeback against United at Old Trafford but the fixture is not considered a realistic date for him to return to the starting line-up.

Sources have told Football Insider that the England international is weeks away from playing for the first-team, with Liverpool staff keen not to rush him back into action.

Brendan Rodgers has been publicly cautious about putting pressure on the England international, who was restricted to just seven Premier League starts last season.

In other Liverpool news, Rodgers will give late fitness tests to Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana following their spells out injured. Meanwhile, Philippe Coutinho is suspended for the United match.