Brendan Rodgers confirmed he expects Lucas Leiva to return to first-team action in early December — and claimed he will come back a better player.

The Brazil midfielder played for 45 minutes in Friday’s U-21 clash with Middlesbrough at the Academy —  his first action since sustaining a thigh injury against Manchester City on August 26.

And all being well, Rodgers is hopeful of being able to call upon Lucas’s services in the opening stages of a month that starts against Southampton at Anfield on December 1.

“I think after today and a good week’s training, next week he should be ready,” the manager told journalists at Melwood. “He’ll be a big player for us. He’s got a wonderful football brain, knows the ideas we’re trying to implement here and he’s a real good man.

“He’s worked very hard. He was unfortunate that he got the injury right at the start of the season having worked so hard on his knee, but indirectly his movement is a lot better now with his knee. He’s had extra working time to prepare that and now he looks really strong and fit.

“He’ll play 45 minutes today and then we’ll see where we are in the next week or so.”

“We’ve got good players in there,” Rodgers added. “Lucas is a top professional, an international player, and he’s got good experience in this country.

“He knows exactly what we’re trying to do, so when you’ve got someone of that caliber coming back, it certainly makes you better.”

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