Football

Lallana: Armband spurs Henderson

Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana believes captaincy is bringing the best out of teammate Jordan Henderson.

In the absence of Steven Gerrard, who returned to training this week after a hamstring injury which has sidelined him for six matches, the Reds vice-captain has taken the armband and led from the front.

His goal against Burnley on Wednesday was his second in as many games - taking his tally for the season to five - and he also provided his 11th assist of the season for Daniel Sturridge to also score against the Clarets.

Liverpool have not lost any of the 13 matches in which Henderson has worn the armband from the start and Lallana, who knows something about leadership from his time at Southampton, believes his England colleague has grown with the added responsibility.

"He is unbelievable. He has matured as a player over the last two seasons and he has kicked on another level even with the armband," said the £23-million ($48m) summer signing.

"I was lucky enough to be captain at Southampton and it does give you that little bit extra and it seems it is doing the same to him."

Henderson believes that the key aspect to Liverpool's recent resurgence is down to the new-found confidence among the squad.

The 24-year-old has been one of the key components to the upturn in fortunes but he was quick to play down his personal contribution and instead focus on the team effort.

"We're really solid as a team together and with the players we've got, like Philippe (Coutinho), Raheem (Sterling), (Daniel) Sturridge, Adam Lallana and players like that going forward, we can hurt anyone," he told the club's official website.

"It's all about confidence. If we're solid from the back right the way through, they'll always score goals and create things.

"That's been key for us and the formation has been brilliant as well. We've been playing with high pressure and intensity and we just need to keep it going."

Lallana's form has also taken an upturn in line with the team's, and there is no doubt he is benefiting from the 3-4-2-1 system which allows him the freedom, alongside Philippe Coutinho, to exploit the space behind the central striker.

"I've had a few injuries and been in and out of the team for whatever reason but I am thoroughly enjoying it at the minute," Lallana added. "I am staying fit and contributing in the system the manager has got us playing."

"It is great to be playing with such good players and the results are on the up. We have a great rhythm and a good bit of consistency and are keeping clean sheets as well; we've turned a corner since Christmas and we are really looking good.

"It was a difficult start (to the season) but all the signings have bedded in now and we have players back fit and we have found a system, we are playing really well and are causing teams problems.

"Confidence is a big thing in any team and we have that in abundance and I think it is showing."

With Liverpool now at full pelt in the race for the top four, just three points behind third-placed Arsenal, they must now divert their attention to the FA Cup.

Championship side Blackburn visit Anfield tomorrow with a place in the last four at stake.

"It is a great competition in which we have a great chance of getting to Wembley in the semi-final," said Lallana.

"We won't underestimate Blackburn, we will dust ourselves down, recover well and go again on Sunday." - Wire Services.