Benitez puts faith in Lucas

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Rafael Benitez believes Lucas Leiva can help fill the gap left by Xabi Alonso's departure to Real Madrid - and the Brazilian youngster agrees.

The Liverpool boss has pinpointed Lucas as the club's most impressive player during pre-season, and the 22 year-old underlined that with a goal and an eye-catching display in Saturday's 2-1 home friendly defeat to Atletico Madrid.

He said: "Lucas has been best the player in pre-season. He showed why again against Atletico. He is really focused, working hard and is showing quality."

Benitez is aware the more adventurous Alberto Aquilani, bought from Roma for £20m last Friday, is not yet ready to replace Alonso in midfield, paving the way for Lucas to make his mark.

"Lucas knows Aquilani will need time," said the manager. "When we decided to bring in Aquilani we knew he would be out for one month or so, so we analysed the squad and we think that with Javier Mascherano, Lucas, Steven Gerrard and Damien Plessis we have enough (strength in depth)."

Lucas added: "I am always ready and now Xabi is gone I hope there will be more opportunities for me.

"I am just working hard in training to try to earn a position in the team. I have played a lot of minutes in pre-season and that has given me more confidence. I am feeling better and hopefully it will be a good season for me.

"Everyone was really sad to see Xabi go because he had been here a long time.

"We will miss him of course but I think we can cope without him. We did not play all the games last season with Xabi, and still finished runners-up.

"He is a really good player but we also have a lot of other quality players here."

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Premier League
Xabi Alonso
Damien Plessis
Steven Gerrard

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