Tuesday 12 December 2017

Lucas: The fans will need to play their part if we’re to beat Zenit

Liverpool midfielder Lucas
Liverpool midfielder Lucas

By Andy Hampson, Press Association Sport

LIVERPOOL midfielder Lucas has called on fans to recreate the atmosphere from some of the club's most famous nights to help salvage their Europa League campaign.

The Reds face an uphill task to continue in the competition as they head into the second leg of their last-32 clash with Zenit St Petersburg at Anfield trailing 2-0 on aggregate.

But the five-times champions of the continent have produced many of their most celebrated European victories under the Anfield floodlights and with the crowd at their most passionate, and Lucas wants to see it again.

Echoing similar rallying cries by team-mates Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel, the Brazilian said: "It is a competition we always wanted to do well in.

"We always know on these special European nights at Anfield what the crowd give to us.

"It will be an important game for us this season. We are really positive and believe we can get through the next stage.

"Hopefully the crowd will give us a special night and we will play well and get through. The crowd will definitely be our 12th player."

For Liverpool to add Zenit to the likes of St Etienne, Auxerre, Roma and Olympiacos on their list of famously vanquished sides, they will need to show a cutting edge lacking in Russia last week.

Brendan Rodgers' side squandered a number of chances before goals in the space of three minutes from Hulk and Sergei Semak midway through the second half condemned them to defeat.

Lucas said: "We know we need to score goals, and also we need to play with a defensive mentality.

"Conceding a goal would make it even harder for us. We need to find a balance.

"We have been working on the training ground and I am sure the approach will be good.

"Hopefully it will be another good night to remember after the game."

Rodgers, for whom this is a first European campaign as manager, also hopes those on the Kop, and elsewhere in the ground, can inspire his players.

He said: "It certainly helps. The legend of Liverpool is based on these nights.

"If you walk round Melwood and see the various quotes from top players and some of the best managers in the world - and it is not the game that is talked about, it is the supporters.

"Such nights really make Liverpool what it is.

"As Lucas said, they will be vital for us, the supporters, as they are every game.

"I am sure we will get the backing that will hopefully get us to a victory."

The game brings Lucas up against one of his compatriots in Hulk, the powerful former Porto forward.

The 26-year-old midfielder hopes to gain the edge.

He said: "We are close, especially when we played a few times in the national team.

"He scored a good goal against us and they are taking the competition very seriously.

"Hulk is an important player for them but he hasn't given me any (team) news.

"He wants to win the game, as I do. We will have a friendly chat after the game and hopefully I will be happier after the game."

Lucas now feels he is returning to his best form after missing most of 2012 through injury.

Lucas was out for seven months after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage in December 2011 and then missed three months earlier this season with a thigh problem.

He said: "I am very close to where I was.

"It has been a good three or four months since my last injury.

"Still I have a few things to improve but I am very close to where I want to be.

"These games I am playing will help me get back to where I was."

Press Association

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