Lucas Leiva saw his first match action as he works back from injury when he took part in the Liverpool U21 reserve match against Middlesbrough on Friday, and according to manager Brendan Rodgers he could be ready to face first team opposition as soon as next weekend when Southampton visit Anfield.
"I think after today and a good week’s training, next week he should be ready," said Rodgers. "He’ll be a big player for us. He’s got a wonderful football brain, knows the ideas we’re trying to implement here, and he’s a real good man.
"He’s worked very hard. He was unfortunate that he got the injury right at the start of the season having worked so hard on his knee, but indirectly his movement is a lot better now with his knee. He’s had extra working time to prepare that and now he looks really strong and fit."
In the end Lucas was fit enough to play 60 minutes, staying on for an extra 15 after the half despite the plan heading into the game being to only let him play the first 45. That he felt good enough for a slightly longer than expected run out will be welcome news for Liverpool fans—not to mention Brendan Rodgers.
And though some rust was evident at times against Middlesbrough, he was the best player on the pitch for either side for much of the night, controlling the midfield easily against mostly young and inexperienced opposition and showing many of the attributes that have seen him develop into an unlikely fan favourite over the past few years.
He still likely won't be in the running to take part in Wednesday's mid-week clash against Tottenham, and Swansea on Sunday is most certainly out of the question, but it can now be said that a full return to action for Lucas is very much on the horizon. And that that is, to put it mildly, a very good thing.