Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva looking forward to first-team return

The Brazilian has spent seven months undergoing rehab after picking up a serious knee injury in November, but is now ready to go, aided by encouragement from his new manager
Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva is looking forward to returning to full fitness and reclaiming a place in the Reds midfield, having been encouraged in his quest by new manager Brendan Rodgers.

The Brazilian has not played a competitive match since picking up a knee injury in the League Cup tie with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last November, but made his long-awaited Reds return during the club's tour of the USA, where he figured in friendlies against FC Toronto, Roma and Tottenham.

Rodgers has spoken of the 25-year-old in glowing terms, explaining his belief that Lucas will be a "brilliant player" when he gets back to his best, and the 20-cap international says that such words have made him confident in his ability to return stronger than ever this season.

12/1 Luis Suarez is 12/1 with Bet365 to be the Premier League's top goalscorer in 2012-13
Speaking to the club's official website, the midfielder revealed: "On my first day back in Liverpool, he [Rodgers] spoke with me and said I was in his plans.

"Those words helped me to relax a little bit more because he was a new manager coming in and everyone wants to impress. I was coming back from an injury and knew I wouldn't be at the same level as the other players.

"It gave me the confidence to progress slowly and I am really happy to have his support from the beginning.

"When a manager says great things about you, it always gives you extra confidence and motivation - but I was already motivated enough. I am at a big club and very happy to play for this club."

Having struggled to adapt on his arrival into the English game when signed from Gremio by Rafa Benitez in 2007, Lucas has gone on to become an important player at the club, with over 180 appearances under his belt.

And he is looking forward to getting back to the hurly-burly of the Premier League after seven months out.

"I am looking forward to having a great season. It was a long rehab and six or seven months out, so I was very excited to play again," he continued.

"Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done, but I am looking forward to getting my confidence back and being 100 per cent as soon as possible."