Striker gives team-mates more confidence, says Brazilian
Lucas Leiva claims the triumphant return of Luis Suarez has already provided a shot in the arm for Liverpool’s hopes of UEFA Champions League qualification.
Suarez marked his first Premier League appearance since April last Sunday by scoring twice in the 3-1 win at rock-bottom Sunderland.
Liverpool won seven times, drew twice and lost once in the Uruguayan’s 10-game absence for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.
However, that defeat came in the final game of Suarez’s ban, a dismal 1-0 reverse to Southampton in their most recent home game.
And Lucas admits the return of his fellow South American has come at exactly the right time to lift spirits within the squad.
“Luis was the best player in the Premier League last year, so having him in our side again this season is just a real boost for all the team and the squad,” said the Brazilian.
“He’s just given us more confidence. The squad that we had without him was a good one, but with him back in it, we’ll be even better. He’s one of the best in the world. He’s really happy to be back. He’s always been training with us, but now he’s available to help us in the official games, it will be much better.
“We just hope he can have the same season that he had last year because he was a really important player for us.
“If he does the same as last season, we will have a better chance to achieve what we want to achieve.”
Lucas, who will sit out Saturday’s Premier League visit of Crystal Palace through suspension, added: “The fans know Suarez very well. He’s been here for two or three years and we all know how he is.
“He’s a fighter and he will do everything he can to help the team, just as he did last year and the season before. That’s what everyone expects from him and I don’t think he’s thinking any other way.”
Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard has praised Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers for being “brave” to put his faith in a clutch of youngsters since arriving at Anfield.
Teenage duo Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom have both emerged as first-team squad regulars having been given their full debuts by the Northern Irishman.
Gerrard said: “Managers are only ever eight to 10 games away from the sack, so to take risks on unknown young players is difficult.
“Brendan Rodgers has been fantastic at this club because he’s been brave and he’s given young players a chance.”
Gerrard admits the influx of foreigners into the Premier League has made it more difficult for English talent to prosper. But the Liverpool skipper has warned some players become too reliant on the trappings of fame and fortune before proving themselves on the pitch.
“A lot of players fall away when they come to Melwood and think the job’s done and they become big time,” said the 33-year-old
“They become footballers for the wrong reasons.”
“For me, my professional days started and the hard work began when I was invited to train full-time with the first team.
“That’s when you have to move people out of your position and show the manager that you are better than what’s in front of you.
“But there’s no two ways about it, it’s a lot more difficult to break through nowadays because of the standard of players and because there is a lot more foreigners about.”