Lucas cites Cottagers woe

Midfielder out to prove boo-boys wrong

Lucas: Out to slience critics

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Lucas Leiva has pinpointed last season's game against Saturday's opponents Fulham as the worst moment of his Liverpool career.

"Fulham was the worst moment because it was the first time anything like that had happened to me"

Lucas Leiva

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The Reds travel to the capital for the second time in four days to a Craven Cottage clash against Roy Hodgson's Cottagers.

The Merseysiders go into the weekend fixture high on confidence after ending a barren four-match losing run in last Sunday's sensational success over Manchester United, none-more-so than the their maligned Brazilian midfielder.

Lucas has long divided opinion in the Kop since his £6million move from Gremio in 2007.

And the former Brazil Under-20 captain felt the full force of his critics when he was booed in the 0-0 draw at Anfield last term, with some angered that manager Rafa Benitez had opted to choose the 22-year-old ahead of now departed Xabi Alonso in his starting XI.

With Alonso now plying his trade at Real Madrid and his £20million replacement Alberto Aquilani only making his first appearance in Wednesday's Carling Cup defeat to Arsenal, Lucas has been a mainstay in Liverpool's engine room and is set to start his 11th consecutive league match.

And the combative midfielder has revealed he has something extra to prove ahead the weekend fixture.

Criticism

"Fulham was the worst moment because it was the first time anything like that had happened to me but it was an experience I could learn from," Lucas said in The Independent.

"Maybe it will happen again but now I have the experience. You have to understand the supporters. They were expecting Xabi [Alonso] that time and he was on the bench.

"The game wasn't good, we were not playing well so I understand. Playing well is the only way you will change it.

"Since that moment [against Fulham] I tried to protect myself. I stopped reading newspapers. Each time I listened to criticism it made me stronger.

"If you just get the negative things you don't improve. I just try to get the positive things. A lot of people believe in my qualities."

Among them is manager Benitez, who has started Lucas in every Premier League and UEFA Champions League game this term and the Reds boss was rewarded for his faith in the midfielder last Sunday.

The visit of Manchester United was talked about as the defining moment of Benitez's Liverpool career and his side, especially Lucas, came out on fire before sealing a stunning 2-0 victory over the champions.

And if there was one moment which epitomised the contest, it was in the 18th minute when a certain Brazilian clattered into Paul Scholes, won the ball and played in Dirk Kuyt who almost scored.

Positive

"The tackle [on Scholes] was a good moment, not just for me but for the team," Lucas said. "We started well, we were on top and had some chances.

"After that game I feel stronger. I'm a positive man, if I listened to everything I would not be focused and I would not be a good player. I just try to get the positive things and try to change."

Lucas believes the Reds have proved they are still in the hunt for top honours after the United win with the midfielder citing their previous success at overcoming adversity as further evidence of their capabilities.

"We were in a difficult moment, we had to win but in that game we could show character and quality as well," he said.

"That will give us confidence to carry on. A lot of things will happen in the next seven months. It is too early to talk about titles.

"We are also in a difficult situation in the Champions League but in 2007 we had one point from the first three games and won the next three. This is Liverpool, anything can happen."