Liverpool title 'outweighs World Cup'
Brendan Rodgers has told Lucas Leiva that Liverpool's Premier League title bid has to take priority over the midfielder's World Cup dream. Rodgers has praised the "incredible attitude" of the Brazil international -- but has not been able to find him a starting place since his recovery from medial knee ligament damage.
The 27-year-old was out for eight weeks after sustaining the injury during the 2-2 Premier League draw against Aston Villa on Jan. 18, and has appeared only as a substitute since his return.
"I respect all the players and their needs but I can only think of Liverpool," said Rodgers. "I want what's best for Liverpool. That's where my concentration is."
Leiva has found his chances limited as Rodgers has switched from using two holding midfielders to just one, and captain Steven Gerrard has been flourishing in that position.
And a failure to win back a regular spot at club level could hamper Leiva's chances of making Brazil's squad for this summer's World Cup, which will be held in his homeland. The midfielder played his first international games in nearly two years when he was selected for Brazil's final four fixtures of 2013.
"I've got to say Lucas has been absolutely incredible in his attitude," said Rodgers. "It's been hard for him because he played a high percentage of the games when he was fit and obviously then got his injury."
But Leiva's injury ruled him out of the 5-0 friendly win over South Africa in Johannesburg on March 5, and he knows that a spot in Luis Felipe Scolari&rsquo's 23-man squad is far from secure.
Rodgers thinks that Lucas will make his national team -- and has praised him for not kicking up a fuss over the issue as Liverpool chase their first league title since 1990.
The manager told the Liverpool Echo he hopes Leiva's spot on the team won't hinge on his lack of playing time during Liverpool's stretch run in the Premier League.
"For those games he has gone away with the team, I am sure they will have been impressed with him," said Rodgers. "For a World Cup, he will be great for their squad."
But Leiva knows he could be called on to step in if anything happens to Gerrard, who must get through Liverpool's next two matches without a booking in order to avoid a two-game suspension.
"He has made it known to me that he just wants to help whenever he's called upon, whether it's for one minute or 90 minutes, he will be ready," said Rodgers.
Lucas is likely to be on the bench again when the Premier League leaders travel to West Ham on Sunday.