Lucas Leiva relishing crucial month ahead for Liverpool

Brazilian midfielder returned to action at the weekend

Midfielder Lucas Leiva believes Liverpool are embarking on a crucial month which could determine whether they are able to challenge for a top-four place this season.

Having already played all of the Barclays Premier League's top seven, Brendan Rodgers' side have a run of six matches of which they will be expected to win the majority.

Despite the Reds' disappointing start to the campaign they are only seven points adrift of third-placed Chelsea as teams above them have all dropped points in recent weeks.

"It shows the Premier League is very tight at the moment," said the Brazil international, who returned for Saturday's victory over Southampton after three months out with a thigh strain - coming just four matches into his comeback from knee surgery a year ago.

"The gap to third place is not too bad. If we had had a few more wins we would be closer but we can't change that.

"We have a lot of games now and if we can get three or four wins in a row I think we will be very close to the top four.

"We just have to think to move on to get more points, especially in the crucial time which is coming.

"If we can turn draws into wins it will be even better but we have to keep believing as there are a lot of positive things at the moment."

The return of Lucas in the midfield holding role gives Liverpool greater strength in a key position and his presence was definitely felt against the Saints.

It allowed Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen to play more advanced roles and despite scoring just once, Lucas is confident the team will be able to score more goals in the future.

"The manager said to us that the decision-making in the final third could be better and as soon as we make the right decisions we will start to score more goals," added the 25-year-old.

"It's a new process with a new manager and a new style of game.

"At the end of May I think we will have more positives than negatives to take.

"My role is especially key for players like Stevie and Joe, Jordan Henderson, Nuri Sahin and Jonjo Shelvey - the offensive players.

"When you have a player who is not really a holding midfielder (Allen performed the role in Lucas' absence) the players feel maybe feel a bit worried to join the attack and leave too much space

"But they know I will be there so this gives them confidence to join the attack, try to score goals and create chances.

"You could see Stevie was very close to scoring (against Southampton), Joe joined the attack and created chances so I am just happy the way I can help.

"If I give that opportunity for them to shine I will be very happy."

The difference Lucas made to the team dynamic did not go unnoticed by Rodgers.

"I thought he was terrific. He gives us great stability when we haven't got the ball, he intercepts, gets the ball back quickly and can read the game," he said.

"Him coming in allows the two other more advanced players to play in that central corridor and run higher up the pitch and get in the box.

"When you get the certain types into the right positions you can see how the team functions and improves."

Rodgers described the weekend performance as "sensational" and believes the plans he instigated on his arrival in the summer are finally starting to bear fruit.

"It is going to take time but these are the ideas we are trying to put into the team in terms of patience," he added.

"We had 14 shots in the first half. You can't score every time you have the ball but I thought the first half was as good as we have played consistently.

"It was systematic and continual and I think we have shown the ideas for the players to pass and create chances and be free, building the game and trying to tire teams out with the ball.

"It has all taken time but I can see great improvements."

PA

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