Why Lucas Leiva must start Liverpool's game against Stoke City

The midfielder was drafted into the starting line-up for the Champions League game against Ludogorets in Bulgaria in midweek.

Lucas Leiva returned to the starting line-up on Wednesday night for Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers tried to get back to basics in a bid to get their season back on track.

The Reds came away with a 2-2 draw, meaning there has been no win in the last five games but it left Liverpool in a position where they could qualify for the knockout stages of the competition by beating Basel in less than two weeks' time.

But now Liverpool need to come up with a gutsy performance in the Premier League in order to get their domestic campaign back on track, and a result needs to follow.

For this reason, Lucas needs to start against Stoke City. Though there was an element of rustiness to the Brazilian's game on Wednesday, there were signs of what he had to offer. For the majority of the game there was a fair bit of protection for the back line with a specialist defensive midfielder, and the way Rickie Lambert's goal came about in midweek was a lot down to the work of the Brazilian. 

It does seem quite incredible that Liverpool were open to offers for the Brazilian in the summer, but he is a battler and needs to be around the place. Stoke City at home is likely to be another battle against a side that is dangerous on the counter-attack, having proven it with victories at both Manchester City and Tottenham this season.

How does a side combat this? By having a competent defensive midfielder in the middle of the park who is willing to stick his foot into challenges, maybe give away free-kicks, and even pick up a booking for his team. That way they're not outnumbered tracking back and can regroup and get their shape.

One of the criticisms that often gets levelled at the Brazilian is that he gives away too many fouls, it may not be a bad thing tomorrow.

  PositionTeamPassing AccuracyTackles AccuracyOutfielder BlockTotal Tackle GAMEInterception WonAppearancesMins Played
Lucas Leiva MF Liverpool 91% 72% 12 3.09 60 33 2,176
Joe Allen MF Liverpool 87% 84% 8 2.51 37 35 2,116
Jordan Henderson MF Liverpool 86% 71% 10 2.42 50 50 4,380
Steven Gerrard MF Liverpool 86% 71% 20 2.51 64 51 4,361
Emre Can MF Liverpool 86% 78% 0 1.13 3 8 369

One only has to look at the statistics that span last season and this term. Only Joe Allen has a better tackling accuracy than him out of the players at the club from last term, but no-one gets through more tackles than Lucas himself. He also has a higher passing accuracy than anyone else in the squad who could play the position, so gives the option to control the game more should the Reds feel the need to calm the game down. Also, look at the interceptions the Brazilian has won [from these the side keep the ball immediately after]. It shows he has composure and discipline on the ball. 

One would think he could help eradicate the moments when Liverpool players have decided to kick a ball against one of their teammates, ultimately ending up losing possession and putting themselves under pressure.

The rustiness element from Lucas will only be eradicated with more game time. Plus that 'back to basics' strategy would be a little flawed if the most integral part of it were to be removed in the very next game, wouldn't it?

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