Joe Allen believes that Lucas Leiva’s return to the Liverpool setup can help the club’s bid to secure a Champions League spot.
The Brazilian midfielder made his comeback in the Premier League clash with Southampton at the weekend following three months out with a thigh problem, which occured shortly after his return from a knee injury that kept him out for the majority of last season.
His return provided the Reds with a defensive surety that has been lacking in his absence, and both Allen and Steven Gerrard seemed to revel in the opportunity to play higher up the pitch.
An assured display from the midfield trio helped to secure a 1-0 victory which lifted Liverpool to within seven points of third-placed Chelsea, and Allen thinks the return of Lucas can help them close the gap further.
“You’re always going to miss quality players like Lucas and it’s great to have him back in the side,” said the Welshman.
“His return, with the steel and quality he brings, is only going to help the team going forward.
“It’s a very important role. If you look at the top teams, they all utilise that position and have a quality player there and it is for a reason, it is vital for the way we want to play.
“With him back playing, I’m sure we’ll get the benefits of that in terms of points and our position in the table.
“We’ve closed the gap (to the top four) a bit and for a club like Liverpool, that has to be our target.
“We have got a run of games now where we want to pick up points and further reduce that deficit.”
Allen is also hopeful that the return of Lucas will allow him to play in a more advanced role, having had to deputise for the Brazilian as a holding midfielder in his absence.
“That’s more my natural position,” he added. “I haven’t played there for a while so I found myself trying to get back into the swing of things.
“I had that security of knowing that Lucas was there.
“It gives you the chance to express yourself further up the pitch, and try to get involved in creating and scoring goals.”