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Benitez calls on Lucas to fill Alonso gap at Liverpool

Rafael Benitez will call on Lucas Leiva to fill the void left in the Liverpool team following the departure of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid last week.

The Liverpool manager has singled out the Brazilian midfielder as the club's best performer in during preseason putting in a commanding performance during the 2-1 loss Atletico Madrid at the weekend.

Liverpool have signed Italian attacking midfielder Alberto Aquilani for £20m but the former Roma player is set to miss the opening two months of the season after undergoing ankle surgery earlier this summer.

Benitez has put his faith in Lucas to step up to the mark: 'Lucas has been best the player in pre-season. He showed why again against Atletico. He is really focused, working hard and is showing quality.'

'He knows Aquilani will need time. When we decided to bring in Aquilani we knew he would be out for one month or so, so we analysed the squad and we think that with Javier Mascherano, Lucas, Steven Gerrard and Damien Plessis we have enough (strength in depth).'

Lucas hasn't always been the most popular player with Liverpool fans but the 22-year-old has claimed that he is ready to take Alonso's place in the Reds first XI: 'I am always ready and now Xabi is gone I hope there will be more opportunities for me. I am just working hard in training to try to earn a position in the team.'

'I have played a lot of minutes in pre-season and that has given me more confidence. I am feeling better and hopefully it will be a good season for me.'

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