Lucas Leiva admits he was overcome with emotion after marking his 300th Liverpool appearance by helping them reach the Capital One Cup final – and raising the prospect of him finally representing the club at Wembley.
The Brazilian was exceptional throughout the Reds’ Anfield battle with Stoke City, making a key contribution to the victory on penalties after extra-time by successfully netting the sixth spot-kick in the shootout.
Jürgen Klopp’s side will now face either Everton or Manchester City in the Wembley showpiece on Sunday February 28 and Lucas is hoping he can turn out for Liverpool at the national stadium for the first time after injuries denied him the opportunity on the previous four occasions.
He told Liverpoolfc.com: “Fingers crossed now! Everyone knows I've never played [at Wembley] and we still have a month to go but I ask everyone to pray that I can get there and help Liverpool to win!
“I always helped to get there but have never been able to be in the final because of [different] issues. Hopefully I will be this time and that's why I'm really happy. Today I played my 300th game for the club [as well], it's amazing.
“[Playing at Wembley] was always in my mind but I don't want to talk too much because it's still [far away]. I remember last year when we got to the semi-final [of the FA Cup] and the day before the game I got an injury, but I'm sure it won't happen again!
“I'm doing everything right, I think this year has been a very good year for me and I think I deserve to play there and hopefully win a title for the club.”
Lucas’s penalty was Liverpool’s penultimate in the shootout, with Joe Allen netting the decisive kick after Simon Mignolet had foiled Marc Muniesa’s attempt.
“I was the sixth man to take a penalty, so I had to score otherwise we would be out,” reflected the No.21. “I just tried to be calm and do what I do in training and I was lucky that I could score and then Joe finished and put us through.
“In the first half, I don't think we performed well, we didn't pass the ball, we were too direct. But second half, I think we controlled the game more and at the end I think we deserved it. Of course Stoke played really well and made it really difficult but I think we had some luck as well.”
On a night of high emotion and drama, the poignancy of the occasion was not lost on Lucas as he clocked up his 300th appearance for Liverpool.
“It's been a lot of up and down, as everyone knows, but I think my life, especially here for Liverpool, has always been like this,” he said. “I’ve always had to fight until the end and just show every single day that I really love the club and I do everything I can to help.
“Sometimes it doesn't work too well but that's life, that's football, and you just have to keep going and fighting because if you show passion and determination I think that's the first thing people want to see. After that it's the performance but I think I've been having a good season.”
Lucas reserved his final words to praise Liverpool’s mentality on what was ultimately a tough evening against a Stoke side, who clinched a 1-0 win on the night to force the penalty shootout.
Nevertheless, the 29-year-old is convinced the Reds’ best is still to come under the guidance of Klopp.
“It's always about titles and winning mentality and I think we've been showing this,” said Lucas. “The performances have maybe not been the way we want but that will take time. It's a new manager coming in and a new way of playing but I think we are buying into it and doing everything we can.
“Of course sometimes it will be more difficult, frustration, but I think if we believe like we believed [against Stoke] then there is a bright future ahead of this group because everybody can see how together we are.”