Demolition derby can spark more Liverpool joy says Lucas
Lucas Leiva says Liverpool’s Merseyside derby demolition of Everton will prove a huge boost as they set their sights on European success.
Jurgen Klopp’s in-form team are in the Europa League semi-finals with a first-leg visit to Spanish side Villarreal to come next Thursday.
Victory in that competition – and a first European trophy since 2005 – would earn them a place in next season’s Champions League.
But should they fall short, the Reds have an alternative route back into the Europa League via the Premier League with their current form suggesting they have every chance of making it.
Three successive league wins, and six from their last eight games, have lifted Liverpool up to seventh place in the table.
That could be enough – depending on who wins the FA Cup – to qualify, but a top-six finish will certainly do it.
Klopp’s side have a game in hand on both Manchester United and West Ham, who are currently fifth and sixth, and are two points adrift of the Hammers and five of cup semi-finalists United.
Neither play in the league this weekend, giving Liverpool every incentive to extend their impressive home record against relegation-threatened Newcastle and former manager Rafael Benitez.
And Liverpool will go into Saturday’s game on the back of an emphatic 4-0 thrashing of neighbours Everton, which long-serving Brazilian midfielder Lucas is looking to build on to aid the team’s push for Europe.
“I think it was a deserved win. It’s special because it’s the first derby under Jurgen,” Lucas said.
“We are all happy and hopefully we can keep this good momentum going because we still have a lot to play for this season.
“We want to finish as high as possible in the Premier League. We know it’s important.
“We want to play European games and if we can get a spot through the Premier League it will be brilliant because the Europa League is too open. We have a chance but we don’t know if we’re going to win it.
“We just have to keep going. This (the win against Everton) shows the squad is in good shape, everyone is playing well and we are getting results, so it’s all positive.
“But we know football can change very quickly so we just need to keep very relaxed and focused.”
– Optimistic –
Klopp may rotate his side again to keep players fresh for next week’s trip to Spain with striker Divock Origi, who has scored five goals in his last five games, definitely out of the Newcastle game with an ankle injury.
Newcastle’s players, who have largely kept a low profile during this troubled season, are now talking a good game as they head to Anfield and attempt to end their 22-year jinx.
While history suggests the odds are stacked against them, the recent past at least offers Newcastle some hope and explains why some of the squad are finally sounding optimistic.
Vurnon Anita and Moussa Sissoko, two of the best performers as they beat Swansea last Saturday and drew with Manchester City in midweek, are suggesting Benitez’s team can yet escape relegation.
But those two games were at St James’ Park and Newcastle’s record on their travels this season is abysmal, with just seven points accumulated from 17 matches.
Yet Anita, who is likely to hold on to the right-back role despite the return of Daryl Janmaat, still insists they can surprise Liverpool.
“It’s an away game and we need to show we can do it away as well, with the same intensity and the fighting spirit,” said Anita, who scored Newcastle’s equaliser against City.
“We just need to keep on going. We need to take it step by step, game by game, and work hard like in the last two games and it will come for us.”
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