Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has warned the Premier League leaders they can’t afford any more slip-ups at Anfield if they are to end their 19-year wait for the English title.
Despite going into the Christmas fixture list as Premier League leaders for the first time since 1996, Liverpool face Gary Megson’s Bolton at Anfiled today having drawn their last three home games, against Fulham, West Ham and Hull.
On each occasion Liverpool had been expected to comfortably claim all three points having already beaten champions Manchester United and title rivals Chelsea in the league this term.
But on top of those costly dropped points Rafael Benitez’s players also failed to claim three points against ten-man Arsenal on Sunday.
With newly-crowned world club champions United now just seven points adrift of Liverpool with two games in hand — at home to Wigan and Fulham next month — Brazilian midfielder Lucas admits that Benitez’s men must quickly rediscover their best form at Anfield.
“We should have beaten Arsenal last Sunday, but we must now focus on our next game and try to get the three points at Anfield against Bolton,” Lucas said. “We have had three draws in a row at home, so it’s important we win this game. We need to win our home games.”
“We are at the top of the league and we have to keep going, be confident and just do our job,” he said.
Liverpool manager Benitez is expected to return to the dug-out today after being laid low with kidney stones over the past week, a problem which forced him to miss the 1-1 draw at Arsenal.
Spain striker Fernando Torres is also in with a chance of a return to action following a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Bolton travel to Anfield having climbed into the top ten in recent weeks, however, and the club are beginning to display the same qualities that made them a feared Premier League force under former manager Sam Allardyce.
And captain Kevin Nolan, a boyhood Liverpool supporter, insists his team’s recent revival is down to the efforts of manager Megson.
“Sam Allardyce had a plan when he was here and Gary has got a plan too,” Nolan said. “It was about stabilizing at first, getting back into the top 10, then maybe next year top eight and then Europe after that.”
“I thought it was completely unfair the criticism he got when he first came in because you have to give someone a chance to show what they can do,” he said. “He stood tall, took it all on his shoulders and never put the blame on the players. He wants to prove everyone wrong and I’m sure he’s doing that.”
“You can’t rest on your laurels, though. We’re trying to rebuild after ‘Big Sam’s’ era and I’m really positive that Gary Megson can do that,” Nolan said.
“Hopefully he’ll get the financial backing in January because it would be nice to see new faces at the club,” he said.