LUCAS LEIVA is confident Liverpool FC can reap the benefits of their early European endeavours as he targeted a return to the Champions League.
Lucas was among the goalscorers as Brendan Rodgers’ side completed their pre-season programme with a 3-1 home friendly win against Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.
While Liverpool begin their Premier League campaign on Saturday with a visit to West Bromwich Albion, they have already negotiated a two-legged Europa League tie against FC Gomel of Belarus.
And Lucas believes those matches could help give the Anfield outfit a flying start to the domestic campaign.
“It’s always important to play competitive games and we’ve had a chance to play two before the Premier League starts,” said the Brazilian.
“That can give us a good momentum to start the season.
“It’s been a positive pre-season. If we play like we have done in the last few games, we’ll have a better chance of getting a good start.”
Liverpool finished outside the top four for the last three seasons and last played in the Champions League in 2009.
And although aware of the strength at the top of the Premier League, Lucas is cautiously eyeing a fight for a return to Europe’s elite club competition.
“It’s hard to say how it will go,” he added. “We’ve done well in pre-season but now will be the big test for us. We’ll have a better idea when the season goes on.
“Hopefully we can get a Champions League spot and that’s what we’re aiming for. It’ll be very hard, many clubs like City and Tottenham are doing well now.
“It’s not going to be as easy as a couple of years ago when maybe there was only four teams going for those top four places.
“We have a tough start to the season, especially at home, but we just have to make sure we go game by game.
New signing Joe Allen is expected to make his debut at the Hawthorns after completing his £15million move from Swansea City last week.
And the Wales midfielder is hoping to quickly settle in after a hectic few years.
“The last couple of seasons have definitely been a whirlwind,” said Allen. “First and foremost, Swansea got promotion to the Premier League which was something I hadn’t imagined so quickly and then off the back of last season to find myself where I am today has been an incredible journey.
“I’m very grateful for the times I’ve had and I’m looking forward to more magic moments in the future.
“There is competition for every single place in the team, it’s full of world-class quality.
“I’m really excited to be playing with the likes of the players who are at this football club and hopefully I can gel straight with them.”
Meanwhile, teenage right-back Ryan McLaughlin has been forced to pull out of the Northern Ireland squad due to injury.
The 17-year-old, who made his first team debut against Roma at Fenway Park during the pre-season, was called up to the senior squad for the first time for tomorrow’s friendly with Finland.
Liverpool have confirmed the dates for the Europa League play-off round with Hearts.
The first leg will take place at Tynecastle on Thursday, August 23 with a 7.45pm kick-off, with the return at Anfield on Thursday, August 30 with an 8.05pm kick-off.