Jan Kirchhoff made his comeback for Sunderland Under-23s this week but he won't be rushed into a first team return, says David Moyes.
The midfielder returned from a six-week lay-off with a hamstring injury in the second string's 2-0 win over Manchester United.
But he hasn't trained since and manager Moyes says the club will take it carefully with the 26-year-old midfielder, who has only made five first team appearances so far this campaign.
Moyes' midfield options have been hit in recent weeks with Lee Cattermole and Paddy McNair out with long-term injuries.
"It is slow with Jan," said Moyes.
"He has played his first game and was okay but he was walking really stiffly and has struggled to train since the game.
"I am hoping we can get another reserve game into him to help.
"We could do with him back because we are really short of midfield players at the moment.
"He wouldn't do himself justice if he went in right now, we need to get him in better condition."
Moyes, speaking at his pre-match press conference, confirmed that Seb Larsson would travel with the matchday squad to Anfield on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
But the Swedish midfielder is unlikely to be involved just yet. Steven Pienaar is back from suspension and is likely to start against second-top Liverpool.
"It is certainly too soon for Jan but Seb will go with the squad to Liverpool," said Moyes.
"Often, they think they are ready and then are not up to match speed at all.
"To be fair to Seb, though, he has had a few Under-23s games under his belt and he is far more ready than Jan is.
"Steven Pienaar is okay and is back in the squad.
"The truth is we don't have many to pick from, you could probably pick the team looking at the squad."
Moyes was dealt a big injury blow this week after midfielder McNair ruptured his cruciate ligament in the 3-0 win against Hull City on Saturday.
No definite timescale has been put on his absence but such an injury would almost certainly rule him out for the remainder of the campaign.
Moyes said: "It is really disappointing for Paddy, he was just beginning to find his way in the team and in the Premier League.
"The rebuilding that I want to do, a fresher, younger team as we go along with boys like Paddy and Donald Love - they were never going to hit the ground running - but Paddy was getting some games because of injury and because he had played well.
"For him to pick up a cruciate is a massive blow for him.
"He got an injury five minutes before half-time, a sore one but got up and went on again.
"We don't know if he played on with it or if it went second half when he went down again.
"He is a tough lad, wants to train hard and has a great attitude. I don't see it being a big problem him coming back.
"He has a cut on his knee which means they can't operate at the moment, we have to wait a week or two and then get it done."