BRENDAN RODGERS has hailed the battling qualities of Lucas Leiva ahead of the Brazilian’s 200th appearance for Liverpool tonight – but Daniel Sturridge is set to miss the visit of West Brom.
Sturridge is struggling to overcome the thigh problem he suffered in the 2-2 draw against Manchester City and is unlikely to be risked against the Baggies.
However, Lucas will reach a significant milestone and Rodgers has been delighted by the midfielder’s recent form.
The 26-year-old, who cost £5million from Gremio in 2007, has fought back from two serious injuries over the past 18 months.
The manager says patience is required as Lucas strives to return to the levels he was at before his fitness battles but admits the signs are promising.
“Lucas will tell you himself that he’s still got a bit to go, but he’s someone who is working ever so hard at his fitness,” Rodgers said.
“Sometimes when you are out for a year, the medics and physiotherapists will tell you that you can add that time on again until they are back to their best. So it could be another six months before he’s back to that level.
“But he’s showing a great determination and a great work ethic to arrive back at that level. His recent performances have shown that he’s well on the road to that recovery.”
The absence of Sturridge tonight is a blow as the striker has netted four goals in six appearances since his £12million move from Chelsea last month.
His place is likely to be taken by either Raheem Sterling or Fabio Borini, while Brazilian new boy Philippe Coutinho could be named on the bench.
Sturridge is ineligible for the Europa League so Rodgers will be hoping that the England international will be fit for next Sunday’s home league clash with Swansea City.
Victory tonight would lift Liverpool back into seventh spot and within nine points of fourth placed Tottenham.