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Lucas Reflects on "Perfect" Return

Following a successful return to action after three months out injured, Lucas Leiva reflected on his first game back and the role he plays helping to make those around him better able to do their jobs.

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Clint Hughes

Returning after a three month layoff and making only his sixth appearance in over a year, everybody expected Lucas to be a little rusty. He might not have been quite up to the imperious standard he set before going down to injury against Chelsea in the League Cup last season, but outside one a handful of mistimed passes out to the right flank he wasn't too far off.

His 88 pass attempts were more than any other player made on the night, and despite the occasional misplaced effort out to Raheem Sterling or Glen Johnson, his 88% completion rate stood him second to only Daniel Agger amongst players who attempted more than twenty passes on the night. Meanwhile, his eight tackles were as many as the rest of his teammates made combined.

And more important perhaps than just how well he played on his return to action was the effect his presence had on those around him. With the fullbacks charging forward more confidently, the weight of holding the midfield together taken off Joe Allen's shoulders, and Steven Gerrard pushed forward to put in perhaps his best performance of the season, Liverpool suddenly appeared a more balanced side than they had in months.

"I didn't have that much time to work with Joe on the pitch because he came towards the end of the pre-season and afterwards I was injured," Lucas said of the impact his return had on the Welsh midfielder in particular, "but we could see Joe getting forward to join the attack and create chances. That's what he used to do at Swansea so he feels very comfortable there knowing that we will always be behind the ball and trying to cover.

"I hope I can help in this way to give freedom for him, Stevie, Henderson, Sahin and Jonjo. That's my job and I'm delighted to be able to help again."

It's a part of his game that many failed to recognise, or at least to fully appreciate, for quite some time, but over the past few seasons Lucas has done some of his best work alongside the likes of Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing—and in the process made both seem serviceable Premier League midfielders. With Allen and a fit Steven Gerrard now in the mix along with a stronger supporting cast, one would expect the results of Lucas' presence to be even more pronounced—as long as his playing time is managed to avoid the sorts of further injuries players returning from long layoffs are prone to.

"The kind of reception I got and to be able to play football—you realise how good it is when you can play every week," he added. "It's what keeps you going and working hard to recover. Every single day I worked very hard and today I felt every minute was worth it.

"I'm very glad with the way I could perform. In terms of fitness, I was feeling very well. Of course towards the end of the game I was getting tired, that's normal and that's what everyone was expecting. I played maybe 15-20 minutes more than the staff thought I could handle [which is] positive. There are a lot of things to improve, but for a first game after a long time out it was very good. The win makes it perfect."

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