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Lucas: I am forever thankful to Benitez

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva says he will be forever grateful to Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez ahead of their clash on Saturday.

Lucas arrived at Anfield when Benitez was in charge of the club, but the Brazilian insisted he will put any good feelings for Benitez aside come kick-off.

"For the fans it will be special to meet Rafa again. He was a very successful manager here and I know the fans love him," he told the club's official website.

"Of course, he is coming in a difficult situation, fighting against relegation. They need the three points, he needs the three points. But when the referee blows the whistle, we need to play for Liverpool and try to get three points."

Lucas said he was thankful for Benitez's support in his early days at the club.

The Brazilian has been at the club for nine years and has made over 300 appearances for Liverpool, but he doubts it would have been possible without Benitez's advice.

"I remember talking to him on the phone. He called me a couple of times and called my father a few times," he said.

"I was only 20 at that time so it was a very special period before I signed with Liverpool. I had some very difficult moments at the beginning here, and he really supported me.

"He never gave up and was always very keen to show me what I needed to improve and the way I should do it.

"I will always be grateful because I think if it was another manager or a manager that was not so patient, I probably wouldn't be here now. It was very important for me.

"Rafa always supported me and was very important for me in the time he was here. I will always be grateful for what he has done for me, but when the game starts we have to play for our shirt, our fans and our club.

"After the game finishes, for sure we will be able to talk and share good moments again."