Liverpool were handed a timely boost in their quest to snare a first ever Premier League crown – a feat they’re priced at 6/1 to achieve – with the news that anchorman Lucas Leiva is back from a knee injury.
The set back he suffered in a January sparked widespread panic around Anfield, with supporters fearing their prospects of a top-four finish would be severely hindered by the Brazilian’s absence.
However, his stint in the treatment room had quite the opposite effect on the Reds, who took off on a barnstorming run to all but assure Champions League football, diverting their focus from the top-four to the title.
With the team in such stellar knick it would be wise to keep Lucas in reserve for the time being, here’s why:
The Merseysiders have won six of the eight games since the 27-year-old was sidelined.
This run accounts for all of their league games bar the 1-1 draw at West Brom, with their only loss coming at Arsenal in the FA Cup.
It was a vastly altered narrative when they took the Gunners on in the league minus Lucas, beating them 5-1, and they also despatched neighbours Everton 4-0 as well as bogey club Southampton 3-0.
An attack-minded midfield trio have contributed to the 23 goals the Reds have scored in their eight Leiva-less encounters.
Seven of these have come from representatives of the midfield threesome as the club reap the benefits of having forward-thinking players operating around the waistband.
The meagre nine occasions that their net has been rustled in response says the porridge is just right.
Steven Gerrard may not have the legs to bombard forwards and backwards at will, but his passing prowess is as brilliant as ever.
His discipline and desire to perform for the team means he’s more than happy to fill Leiva’s boots, with the energy and creativity of Jordan Henderson providing support for both his captain and the team’s razor-sharp strike force.
This adventurous set up allows Coutinho to be at his dastardliest too; the diminutive string-puller wreaks the most havoc centrally, as opposed to the wide berth he must take up when compatriot Lucas is selected.