As Liverpool prepare for the tough task of stopping Spurs, Brendan Rodgers sought to praise midfielder Lucas' efforts to rediscover the form he was on before suffering a season-ending injury in 2011.
At his best, Lucas' composure on the ball and ability to read the game frees up the players around him. At his best, he makes every other player in midfield and defence better, allowing the fullbacks and his fellow midfielders to attack without worrying overmuch about the terrible things that could happen if the ball is turned over and protecting the centre backs from quick-strike counters.
After missing almost an entire calendar year through injury, though, Lucas' best may still be some ways off—at least on a consistent basis. It's something manager Brendan Rodgers is well aware of, even if he's been delighted with the impact a less than entirely match fit and on form Lucas has been able to make to the side.
"I’ve been delighted with Lucas," said Rodgers. "We were very wary of the fact he had had a serious knee injury last season, and then obviously another problem on top of that this season. It was important for the team to get him back, but it was important for him that we did so at the right pace and that we paced his recovery right."
The past few weeks have given fans glimpses of the Lucas of old in dominating performances against Swansea, Zenit, and Wigan, games wherein his impact at least approached what was seen over an 18-month stretch through to November of 2011 when he was the club's best player. Still, for most the expectations have always been low when it comes to chances of seeing the midfielder return to his best this season.
And any expectations that may have existed took a major hit when his return to action in August was further complicated by a thigh tear that kept him away for a further three months. It was a tough blow for the player, but also for the club, who three transfer windows on from his initial injury still have nobody able to fill the holding role even half as well as he does.
"It is a big credit to him as a professional," continued Rodgers. "He has worked so hard, and his attitude and his application has been first class. He deserves every praise for the way he has conducted himself [but] I still believe, having worked with these kind of injuries in the past, that it won’t be until the summer, and beyond even, that we see him back at full level.
"It will be great for him to get a full pre-season with the group under his belt, but you can see in recent games that his mobility and the speed of his game is getting better and better all the time. As I say, it is a credit to him. He’s been fantastic."