Leiva ready to step up
Published 01/04/2015 | 10:31
Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva is looking to recapture what he considers his best form in two years after recovering from injury.
The Brazil international enjoyed a run of 16 starts in 19 matches from late November - which coincided with a marked improvement in the team's results - until a groin problem in February's Merseyside derby saw him miss 10 games.
He was an unused substitute in the defeat by Manchester United immediately before the international break, their first in the league since mid-December, but played 90 minutes in Sunday's All-Star Charity game at Anfield.
Lucas' return to fitness could not have come at a more opportune moment, with captain Steven Gerrard suspended for three matches for his sending off against United, and the Brazilian is hoping to slot back in seamlessly after injury halted what was turning into a good season personally.
"I was in a very good moment, probably the best moment in the last couple of years, and I had a good run of games," he said.
"The beginning of the season wasn't good for me because I couldn't play much, but as soon as I got back in the team I think I helped a lot.
"I don't know if Stevie's suspension will change things because the team were playing well, but I need to be ready and there are a lot of games to play and the FA Cup as well, so everyone will be needed.
"I need to be ready and if I get a chance again I need to be at the same level I was before I was injured."
Fifth-placed Liverpool head to Arsenal on Saturday knowing they cannot realistically afford to lose if they are to keep pace with the top four, but in addition to Gerrard's absence they will also be missing centre-back Martin Skrtel, a virtual ever-present this season, after he was retrospectively banned for standing on United goalkeeper David de Gea.
"Martin is having a fantastic season again. He has been a very consistent player for us and losing him and Stevie is hard to take, but if you want to be successful you can't rely on one or two players," Lucas told liverpoolfc.com.
"Both are very important players for us as one can change a game and the other gives us stability at the back, but we have other players as well who can step in.
"It's always been the case for the group that if someone gets injured then someone will step in and do the job.
"That's how it should be and we shouldn't be afraid we don't have them.
"Of course it's going to be a big miss not having Stevie and Skrts, but we have to show we can cope for the three games and then we have them back ready to go again."
Lucas rejected the chance to have some time off during the international break in order to make sure he was fully fit for the resumption of the Premier League.
"I feel great. Leading up to the Manchester United game I had a full week of training as well, so it's been two weeks of full training," he said.
"I was available for the Manchester United game, but probably wasn't able to play the whole game. Now I feel 100 per cent.
"Of course it's good to have a few days off, but I was away in Brazil while I was having my treatment so it was the right decision to stay here and keep working during the international break.
"If you get too many days off you don't get the sharpness and the rhythm of the training session and that's what I was missing.
"I spoke with the staff and they prepared everything for me as well to make me feel as though I'm in good condition, so it's looking good and hopefully it will only get better.
"Now it's just a question of getting some minutes and training sessions, so that's what I need and what I'm having.
"Leading into the Arsenal game that's going to be good, because I will have had three full weeks of training and I'm looking forward to it."