Liverpool have to start better - Lucas

Lucas Leiva wants Liverpool to avoid the sort of sloppy start that play a part in them missing out on Europe last season.

Liverpool must come firing out of the blocks if they are to make a hasty return to the UEFA Champions League, says Lucas Leiva.

Brendan Rodgers' men finished just two points adrift of Manchester City when coming runners-up in the 2013-14 season, but limped to a disappointing sixth-place finish last term.

Part of Liverpool's troubles were down to a sloppy start that saw them win just four of their opening 12 Premier League matches and not even a 13-match unbeaten run between December and March was enough for the Merseysiders to break their way into the top four.

Liverpool have worked hard in the transfer market during the close-season with the likes of Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Danny Ings and Nathaniel Clyne moving to Anfield, and midfielder Lucas wants the newly assembled squad to hit the ground running by the time the new campaign gets underway at Stoke City on August 8.

"It's always the same. We would like to challenge for the top four, we missed [it] last year," Lucas told Liverpool's official website.

"I think the important thing for us is to start the season well, we didn't last year, which cost us probably.

"The second part of the season we played well and we won a lot of games but the beginning of the season wasn't good enough. With the new signings as well, it's always exciting but we just need to see how the group develops in pre-season and start on the front foot.

"Our first seven away games are hard and we will have to start well otherwise by December we won't be in a good position."