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Feb 20, 2013

Lucas hopes Reds can humble Hulk

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva wants to outdo his friend and compatriot Hulk as the Reds attempt to stage a Europa League comeback against Zenit St Petersburg at Anfield on Thursday.

• Reina: Reds can recover

Striker Hulk scored Zenit's opener in a 2-0 first-leg victory that leaves Brendan Rodgers' men facing a huge task to reach the last 16.

Hulk and Lucas, who have played together at international level for Brazil, are planning to catch up after the game regardless of the result.

But the Liverpool star, 26, hopes to keep his side's Europa campaign going and have the last word. He said: "We are close - especially as we have had the chance to play together a few times in the national team.

"He scored a good goal against us last week, and Zenit are taking the competition very seriously, as we are. Tomorrow, we will have a friendly chat after the game, and I hope I will be happier than him.

"It's a competition we always want to do well in. We know these are special nights at Anfield, and that the crowd give us help.

"It will be an important game for us going forward for the season as well. We are really positive and believe we can get through to the next stage."

Lucas said he felt he was getting back to his best following an injury-hit 12 months.

He missed the second half of last season after sustaining cruciate knee ligament damage at Chelsea in November 2011, and had only just come back when he tore a thigh muscle against Manchester City in August, keeping him out for three further months.

But he said: "It's been a good few months since my bad injury. There are still a few things to improve on, but I'm very close to where I want to be.

"Of course, the games I'm playing will help me to get back to the level I was at."

The midfielder has been helping his fellow Brazilian Philippe Coutinho settle in on Merseyside following his £8 million January move from Inter Milan.

Lucas, like Coutinho, was only 20 when he arrived at Anfield, having moved to Liverpool from Brazilian club Gremio in 2007.

He said his compatriot Fabio Aurelio, who left Anfield to join Gremio last summer, had helped him to settle in. "Fabio Aurelio was like my dad when I arrived," he explained. "I'm trying to give Philippe the same help that Fabio gave me."

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