Lucas: Liverpool deserve to be higher up in league

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The Independent Online

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva believes the team's current league position does not reflect their form under Kenny Dalglish, but he is confident they can finisher higher.

Saturday's 5-0 win over Birmingham was the 16th successive Premier League game they have scored in – the best run in the top flight – and made it seven points from their last three matches. While rivals appear to be faltering as the season draws to a close, the Reds are rejuvenated and fifth place remains well within their grasp.

Since Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson in early January the team have taken 28 points out of 42 and the strides they have made in the League have been considerable.

Prior to Manchester City's match at Blackburn tonight, the Reds had reduced the deficit between themselves and Roberto Mancini's side from 17 points to just four, and with Tottenham the gap is down from 11 to three. Those statistics point to the underlying change in fortune which has occurred under the 60-year-old Scot and the style of the win over Birmingham, which was probably the most complete display in two seasons.

It is why Lucas, who has excelled in the current campaign, is convinced the best is yet to come from this squad.

"It means everyone is together," said the Brazil international. "The team is building confidence and we just have to finish as high as possible at the end of the season. I think the way we are playing at the moment we deserve to be higher. Tottenham still have an advantage because they have one game in hand and are three points ahead but we have to make sure we win every single game and if we do we will have a happy end to the season."

What has been equally impressive over recent weeks is that important results – a 3-0 win over Manchester City and a 1-1 draw at Arsenal – have been achieved without a number of established players.

Captain Steven Gerrard (groin) and Daniel Agger (knee) are both out until next season while Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Fabio Aurelio (all hamstring) are still not fit. Into their places have stepped the likes of Jay Spearing and teenagers John Flanagan and Jack Robinson. Spearing, in particular, has slotted into central midfield alongside Lucas and not looked out of place despite making just six first-team appearances prior to this season.

Lucas, for one, has been impressed by the 22-year-old former youth team captain. "We know it is very difficult when it is your first season in the Premier League but he has come in and played really well," said the Brazilian, who at 24 has already played 164 times for the Reds.

"Always we are under pressure to win because we still think we can get fifth place but he has done well and is developing very quickly – and the same goes for the other younger players. If you see the younger players I am already old but I am still learning. When I arrived in Liverpool a lot of people helped me to learn and that is what I am doing now, trying to give Jay some confidence on the pitch.

"The team looks good and when fans see more young players coming in and playing well that means Liverpool have a bright future."

Meanwhile across Stanley Park, Tony Hibbert believes qualifying for Europe is no longer an acceptable target for Everton and they have to end their long trophy drought next season.

Everton's chances of playing in the Europa League were virtually ended when they lost at Manchester United and city rivals Liverpool beat Birmingham to move five points clear in sixth place with four matches remaining.

But even if they can claw back lost ground, the long-serving Hibbert, an Everton academy graduate, is already thinking about next season and ending the club's 16-year wait for silverware.

"Whatever cup it is, we need one next season," said the 30-year-old. "Everton need silverware – the sooner the better. The squad we've got is capable of challenging in the domestic cups and Europe."