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Rodgers calls for Lucas patience

ESPN staff
February 11, 2013 « Chelsea in the hunt for Cuevas | Chartbeat test »
Lucas Leiva is hoping he, and Liverpool, can enjoy a more successful 2013 © PA Photos
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Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers insists midfielder Lucas Leiva will reach his career best form in due time and must be patient after returning from a long-term knee injury.

Lucas, 26, will make his 200th appearance for the Reds against West Brom on Monday night, but has struggled for form since returning from his year-long layoff.

The Brazilian became a crucial part of Liverpool's midfield at the start of last season and is hoping to assert himself in Rodgers' line-up after being forced to play from the bench on a number of occasions this year.

"Lucas will tell you himself he still has a bit to go," Rodgers said. "When you are out for a year the medics and physiotherapists will tell you to put that time on again before players are back to their best.

"He is someone that is working ever so hard at his fitness. He has shown a great determination and work ethic to get back to that level and his recent performances have shown he is well on his way to that recovery."

Liverpool's trip to West Brom on the opening day of the Premier League season ended in a dismal 3-0 defeat, but Rodgers has warned Steve Clarke's side to expect a much different test at Anfield.

"I thought for 40 minutes we were much the better side and could arguably have been two or three goals up and then Zoltan Gera scores a wonderful goal," Rodgers said. "We then went a man down early in the second half and from there we disappointed.

"But that was at a time when the group hadn't been together long, a lot of the international players had come back but hadn't been working long (after the European Championships).

"It was understandable but it doesn't make it (the defeat) any easier. It will be a totally different group with a different mentality at this stage of the season, having had the chance to work together."

A win will see Liverpool leap over Swansea into seventh place, while a West Brom victory will lift them above the Reds. Despite his side's failure to disturb the top four placings so far this season, Rodgers has been impressed by the ability of his players to adapt to his tactics.

"We are showing flexibility in our game," he said. "We know the philosophy and how we want to work but it is important you are pragmatic and you can adapt.

"The players have shown that and that is great for us going forward because as we progress we need that going forward."

Key battle: Baggies boss Steve Clarke claims Liverpool are playing the best football in the Premier League at the moment and Steven Gerrard has been the driving force in recent weeks. Youssouf Mulumbu missed West Brom's recent clash with Tottenham but is back in contention and how he copes with Gerrard could be key to the outcome.

Player to watch: Philippe Coutinho has been working hard in training and he could be given the chance to make his Liverpool debut. He arrived from Inter Milan with a lofty reputation and the Anfield faithful will be keen to see what the fuss is all about.

Talking point: West Brom are bottom of the Premier League form table, having lost five of their last six games, but will that be enough to see the Baggies recall Peter Odemwingie following his transfer deadline day antics?

Bet of the day: Daniel Sturridge has been in sizzling form since making the move to Anfield, scoring four goals since making the move from Chelsea and he is 10/3 with bet 365 to bag the first goal.

Prediction: 3-1

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