As it turned out, the rush to proclaim Lucas match-fit and ready to go at the start of the season was premature. An accelerated rehab stint through the spring and summer of 2012 saw him feature briefly in the club's preseason tour of North America, and on last season's opening day he managed to make the starting eleven alongside Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard at the heart of Liverpool's midfield. The much-anticipated return was short-lived, with Lucas limping off after just a few minutes the next weekend against Manchester City, this time with a thigh injury that would see him out for a further few months, with a return to action on December 1, the anniversary of his initial injury against Chelsea in the League Cup.
This season hopefully promises to be less eventful in terms of fitness, with a full preseason behind him and form over the last few months of the season that was trending toward the types of elite-level performances he was turning in on a consistent basis during the 2012 calendar year. Speaking to the offal during the club's first few days of their preseason tour of Asia and Australia, the midfielder sounded optimistic about his current status and his role in the squad ahead of the new season:
"I'm feeling 50-60 per cent better than I was last season. The last six months I played were really important for me. I needed to get games and sessions, and this season now I'm feeling strong and feeling that I'm in the shape I was before the injury. Now I've got to improve the fitness and build confidence, but I'm really happy with the way pre-season has started.
"It's been six years and my seventh season is here already. How much I've changed since I arrived - the hair and the face! Older, for sure. I really appreciate how things changed for me at this club. I want to keep going. Being one of the older players in the squad makes you feel like you have extra responsibility. I really like that, and I hope I can be one of the leaders on the pitch this season."
As we've discussed before, there's a level of pressure on Lucas' shoulders this season that hasn't yet been alleviated; Liverpool's inability (or just plain refusal) to add another holding/defensive-minded midfielder leaves the Brazilian as the only squad member that's proven capable of filling the role consistently, with Joe Allen marshaling well in the early part of last season but fading badly as fall turned to winter. If Brendan Rodgers sticks with a three-man midfield, that could ostensibly take some of the weight off, but there's still the nagging question of whether or not the Lucas we marveled upon is back on full form and fitness.
Thus we're left to hope for the sake of both Lucas and Liverpool that his assessment is accurate, and that he's again able to flourish with a full season ahead of him. There are few players in the squad--or the Premier League for that matter--who are as committed, genuine, and endearing as Liverpool's improper Brazilian, and while deserve's nothing to do with it, he's someone you can't help but feel deserves nothing but good things.
Obligatory reminder of his unmatched awesomeness: