Liverpool's Lucas ruled out for season
Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has been ruled out of the rest of the season with a knee injury. The former Gremio man was carried off on a stretcher in the second half of the Reds' 2-0 League Cup quarter-final win at Chelsea on Tuesday.
Manager Kenny Dalglish's worst fears were confirmed after a scan revealed damage to the anterior cruciate ligament in the player's left knee. "The Brazil international will undergo surgery and unfortunately be ruled out for the remainder of the current campaign," said a statement from the club.
The 24-year-old was inundated with messages of goodwill on Twitter and he responded in kind. "Just to confirm that I will be out until the rest of season," he wrote. "I am really sad with the news because I was enjoying [it] a lot on the pitch. I am sure I will come back stronger and I will achieve everything that I dream with the LFC shirt. I am sure I'll never walk alone."
The midfielder's absence is a huge blow for Liverpool as Lucas had been on of their best performers not only this season but the previous campaign as well. In the last fortnight, in particular, the Brazilian has shown his worth with impressive performances against Chelsea in both the Premier League and League Cup victories and also in the 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City on Sunday.
He has forged a successful central midfield partnership with summer signing Charlie Adam, undertaking the defensive anchor role to allow the Scotland international to play a more expansive game. Lucas was Liverpool's player of the year last season, having been named the best young player the previous campaign, and the hole he leaves in the side is considerable.
Liverpool obviously feared the worst and after an initial assessment yesterday they recalled midfielder Jonjo Shelvey from his loan spell at Championship side Blackpool. The ideal scenario for manager Kenny Dalglish would be a swift return for captain Steven Gerrard. He has made just five appearances this season, having had a delayed start after recovering from a groin operation in April, and has not played since 22 October because of an ankle infection.
Gerrard, however, is a vastly different player from Lucas and his comeback would mean the defensive responsibility being passed to Adam. He has already shown his worth in being given the freedom to get forward but he may now have to curtail that side of his game. No timescale has been placed on Gerrard's return so in the short-term the defensive midfield role could be passed to Jay Spearing.
The 23-year-old has been used as back-up this season as, in five appearances, four starts have been in the League Cup. However, his game is more suited to a defensive role and he proved his quality in the latter stages of last season when he deputised for Gerrard. Despite Shelvey's recall from Blackpool, where he had scored six goals in ten matches, he appears more likely to provide added depth on the bench.
Liverpool's other central midfield option is Jordan Henderson, who would no doubt prefer a move inside to a more familiar position having struggled out on the right where he has spent most of his time since joining from Sunderland in the summer.