As he prepares to feature in his 12th Merseyside derby since becoming a Red, the Brazilian Lucas Leiva has learned exactly why Liverpool-Everton matches mean more than simply three points.

More than six years have now passed since the 26-year-old made an unforgettable debut in the world-famous clash, when he replaced captain Steven Gerrard as a second-half substitute.

The switch surprised many at the time, only for Lucas to force a late penalty which was converted by Dirk Kuyt to secure a dramatic 2-1 victory at Goodison Park.

He reflected with the Liverpool Echo: "It was completely different from anything I'd ever experienced before.

"That was my first league game in England and I was so young. When I first came I knew about the derby but I didn't really fully understand about it.

"I hadn't really been able to meet people around the city and speak with them about it. Coming on for Stevie in that game opened my eyes and really showed me what it meant to both sets of supporters.

"My first experience of playing against Everton was fantastic, with us getting that win. I was able to have an impact in helping us get the result we wanted.

"Having been here for so many years I know this is a different type of game. It's a special match. As players we need to approach it as a normal game. But we all know it's not only about the three points.

"It's about the city and about the people. This is a different week for the fans. We know it means more than three points for them."


Lucas has experienced the other end of the emotional spectrum too, having received a red card during the Reds' FA Cup defeat across Stanley Park in February 2009.

The No.21 used that disappointment as a learning tool, however, and reported confidence in the camp as Liverpool search for an eighth Barclays Premier League win on Saturday.

He continued: "The difference between winning and losing is big. It was a difficult moment for me when I got that red card in the derby. It was just something I really tried to learn from.

"Since then we've had a pretty good record in the derbies and we just hope we can continue that. Winning a game like this can make a big difference to our season.

"Our record shows our team has the experience to play these kind of games but every game is different.

"I know a few Evertonians around the city and they are really excited about the game. They have started the season really well with a new manager. They are playing a different style now.

"It's always a difficult game against Everton and their confidence is very high. But we are going into it in good form and with good momentum so it's going to be a great game."

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Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has fired five goals in the Premier League in 2013-14, after notching home and away against the Reds last season while on loan with West Bromwich Albion.

Lucas acknowledged that Brendan Rodgers' team must be aware of the Belgian's threat, but warned that the opposition will have their own defensive worries.

"Last season we had the experience of facing him when he was on loan at West Brom so we know how strong and powerful Lukaku is," added the midfielder.

"He can also score goals and he's in good form so we will have to pay special attention to him.

"But I'm sure they will be worried about our strikers. Both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have been in great form and we're lucky to have them."

The Brazil international has switched his focus to club duties after travelling to North America with his country last week for friendlies against Honduras and Chile.

"I'm really happy to be part of the squad again," Lucas concluded.

"I was doubtful I would be back because of the two serious injuries I had. It's a bit later than I hoped but there is still time to make the World Cup squad.

"Being back for the past four Brazil games really gives me the confidence and the belief that I can be there next year.

"Now there are no international games for a few months the key is to keep doing well for my club and keep Liverpool high in the table. That will help me be involved in the next internationals.

"Especially now we're getting towards the end of the Brazil League season, all the attention will be on the Premier League.

"It's so important for me to keep a good level. I feel like Scolari is gaining confidence every time I play for Brazil. Every time I speak with him everything seems very positive. I have to keep doing what I am doing.

"I only got back from Canada late on Wednesday but I have time to recover for Saturday. I'm used to this kind of thing and I'll be ready to face Everton."