Jordan Henderson has spoken of the respect within the Liverpool squad for Lucas Leiva as he nears a first-team return – and revealed how the Brazilian has helped him through some difficult moments.
Lucas has been out of first-team contention since suffering a thigh injury during the early stages of the Reds' meeting with Manchester City on August 26.
But the midfielder banked 61 minutes for the U21s last week and Henderson revealed that both young and old members of the squad are relishing the 25-year-old's comeback.
"Lucas has been working hard to get back as quick as he can, training for the last few days. He looks nearly ready," Henderson told Liverpoolfc.com.
"He's been keeping it simple because I don't think he wants to start pinging balls in case he pops it again.
"He's been looking sharp in training and he's a really good lad so the quicker we can get him back the better. He's a top player, everybody knows that."
Henderson can perhaps draw comparisons with Lucas' rise in popularity at Anfield and his own fledgling Reds career, and the 22-year-old explained that his senior colleague is always available for advice.
He continued: "He will offer advice to younger players - I've spoken to him a couple of times about things.
"He's a really nice guy and he'll help you through times when it might not be going right for you. He's definitely a senior player that you look up to. He's a big player for Liverpool and as soon as he gets back, it will benefit the team."
The next challenge for the Reds is a home clash against a rejuvenated Southampton team managed by one-time Liverpool trainee Nigel Adkins.
Henderson expects a tough task when the Saints visit Merseyside on Saturday afternoon, but called on his teammates to claim regular victories at Anfield.
"They've been playing well the last few weeks, got some good results, and they like to play football as well," the midfielder added.
"They've got some good players, it's another difficult game but one that we'll go in confident about winning and hopefully we can keep playing like we have been.
"They're enjoying playing in the Premier League, I'm sure the manager and all the players will be enjoying it. You can see that in the way that they play. It will be a good game.
"It's a key feature in the Premier League - you need to win your home games. That's what we've been trying to do. It's another big game against Southampton and we'll make sure that we're ready and confident going into the game."
The Reds are also set to welcome Aston Villa and Fulham before 2012 concludes, and Henderson is confident that three points can be secured against each.
"They're games that we'll go in confident about winning, but I think we go into every game like that. Because of the players that we've got, we think that we can win.
"Those games will be no different - we'll give the teams the respect that they deserve but we're there to do a job and win the game."
Win, lose or draw, the midfielder echoed the argument that the Reds are improving all the time and believes the club's loyal supporters can see that progress for themselves.
"I think the fans appreciate what the manager and everyone else is trying to do," he concluded.
"You can see improvements week by week in the way that we play, the way that we keep the ball and press as a team.
"There's definitely improvement that people can see so I think they appreciate that and they'll support us all the way like they always have."