Liverpool Focus – Lucas returns to boost Liverpool’s midfield options

There will have been much delight at Brendan Rodgers’ confirmation that Brazilian star Lucas Leiva will return to the Liverpool squad for the Reds’ Premier League fixture against promoted Southampton this weekend. The Anfield outfit have been unable to call upon their only senior defensive midfielder for the past three months, but Lucas’ imminent return to first-team action will come as a huge boost to Liverpool and could help to turn the Reds’ fortunes around.

Rodgers’ underperforming side have won just one of their previous six top-flight games and their eight-match unbeaten league run came to an end on Wednesday night following a 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane. Though many will claim that the loss was somewhat unfortunate and undeserved, the result left Liverpool in the bottom half of the Premier League table – a significant 10 points behind fourth-place West Bromwich Albion. Despite a poor start to his Anfield career, Lucas has been a key player for the Merseysiders in recent years. His welcome return will allow Rodgers to tinker with his midfield.

Summer signing Joe Allen has demonstrated his flexibility by often filling in for the Brazilian midfielder, but the dynamic Welshman could soon be back playing in a more familiar role with fewer defensive duties. Rodgers has previously claimed that the Liverpool supporters would see a different side to Allen’s game once Lucas recovers from injury. That moment is now very close.

A fit Lucas playing alongside Allen would also leave room for inspirational skipper Steven Gerrard to play in a more advanced role, providing the Reds with more attacking options. Gerrard is capable of playing anywhere in the midfield area, but there is a sense that Liverpool fail to make the most of Gerrard’s talents when the England captain is forced to sit in a deeper role. Lucas’ arrival could solve that problem.

However, the likes of Jordan Henderson, Jonjo Shelvey, Nuri Sahin and even Spanish starlet Suso may begin to feel frustrated once Lucas returns. Henderson has only recently been trusted by Rodgers to start Premier League games, while Shelvey has made the majority of his appearances from the bench. Turkish midfielder Sahin, the loan signing from Real Madrid, has not played in a top-flight fixture for almost three weeks. These players had relatively limited roles while Lucas was out, so how much worse will things get for them when the Brazilian is back?

Certainly, Rodgers will be hoping that Lucas can improve Liverpool’s fortunes while he improves his own fitness. The Anfield outfit certainly need a boost from somewhere if they are to begin to climb the table.

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