Joe Allen knows he faces a battle to claim a place in the Liverpool first team having returned from injury - but the midfielder insists he's ready for the challenge.

Allen's game time has been limited to two appearances this season after he picked up a hamstring problem against Notts County in August.

He made his return to the team as a late substitute in the Reds' comfortable 4-1 win over West Brom on Saturday.

The Wales international is delighted to be back, but he knows Liverpool's strong start to the season has raised the bar, in terms of what is required to hold down a starting berth in the side.

"It's a challenge you have to relish as a professional footballer," he told Liverpoolfc.com. "There's always competition and there's always someone out for the same spot as you.

"It's been a great start to the season and we're playing really well, so that makes the competition even harder.

"The atmosphere is great. We're towards the top of the table and that's where we want to be. We know it's a massive competition up there and there are some very strong clubs."

Allen was introduced to replace Steven Gerrard in the 86th minute of the win over Steve Clarke's Baggies.

While the stadium rose to its feet to applaud the Liverpool skipper from the field, Allen also received an ovation of his own from the home fans to acknowledge his return to fitness.

"It was great to be back out there," said the 23-year-old. "When you've been out with an injury, it's always nice to get back on the pitch and get back playing.

"So to come back on in front of the home crowd at Anfield was great. It was my first appearance there in the league for a long time, so hopefully I can get back to full fitness and look forward to making more appearances.

"I think when you've had a little bit of a lay-off, you miss a little bit of that sharpness and your match fitness is obviously a little bit down, but I'm working on that and I'm getting back to where I want to be.

"The idea is to get more minutes on the pitch. I've just got to make sure I train hard and put my name forward for selection as much as I can."

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