Arriving as a club's most expensive summer signing always leads to high expectations, and it was no different for Adam Lallana. After being named to the team of the season at three levels over four years and coming off the best campaign of his career, though, one that proved he could replicate his lower-league domination at the highest level, he seemed a player up to the task.
Then, a few short weeks after joining up with his new club for pre-season, he suffered an injury that meant he would miss the chance to integrate with his new teammates along with the first month of the season. However, after back to back man of the match calibre performances, it's beginning to look as though the silky, energetic playmaker is getting very close to full match fitness.
"I feel like I'm more or less there now," he said when asked whether he believes he's up to speed. "It took me a few games to get going, as well as being my first few games for Liverpool, so I knew it was going to be tough. I'm just delighted to be back playing for such a fantastic club, playing in competitions like this one as well, which is what I've always dreamed about since I was a kid."
After playing 120 minutes against Middlesbrough and 90 against Everton on the weekend in his first derby for Liverpool, one would hope he's at full fitness given he's expected to start tomorrow. A lung-bursting run in stoppage time against Everton suggested he just might be up to the workload, but there will still be concerns about overplaying him if he goes another 90.
Similar concerns exist for Raheem Sterling, who more so than Lallana showed signs of tiring late on against Everton. And while Gerrard was solid on Saturday, it was on a full week's rest, which he certainly won't have heading into tomorrow's match. Lallana, though, believes he and his teammates are ready for Basel, and that in the larger picture they're a side headed in the right direction.
"They played Chelsea in the competition last year and I can remember watching that, and we have obviously studied and analysed them," he said when asked about tomorrow's opponents. "But it's just as important for us to focus on ourselves. We're here on the back of a good performance over the weekend, and we still think we're improving. That we're going in the right direction.
"It's a huge honour for me to be playing in this competition for Liverpool. It's where a team like this belongs. It's obviously a tough competition and there are no easy games, but you take the positives that you can. It's extra games for us and another game opportunity to get up to speed, and hopefully we'll get the right result tomorrow—and we're confident we can do that."