Torres ready for emotional return
Published 04/11/2008 | 00:00
He will adorn the match programme cover in the strips of both clubs and his manager has said the decision is his so it seems that Fernando Torres will get the emotional return to action that he has craved against his old club Atletico Madrid at Anfield tonight.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said he will not let Torres' heart rule his head and return prematurely from the hamstring trouble which left has so plagued him.
But Torres, declared 70% fit by Benitez yesterday, will make the decision when the two Spaniards will talk today and the 24-year-old, who scored 102 goals in 243 appearances for Atletico and was skipper at the Vincente Calderon by the age of 18, is likely to feature on the Liverpool bench.
While Torres and midfield maestro Steven Gerrard (pictured) hold the limelight, the less fashionable striker who has matched him goal for goal this season, was reflecting yesterday on when a new contract might come his way, with just 18 months left on the current one.
The five goals which make Dirk Kuyt Liverpool's joint top scorer have, as ever, been only one part of his contribution this season.
The professorial Benitez hardly seemed to be garlanding the 28-year-old — “technically he is not bad; he's not bad in the air, he's not bad in his movements and the work rate is amazing,” he said — but the manager's more significant observation was this: that he will always pick Kuyt when he can because he trusts him “100%.” Benitez said that Kuyt's contract situation, as well as central defender Daniel Agger's, “has to be” resolved by the New Year.
“I want them here for the future,” he said. But discussions with the Dutchman have not even started yet — a product, it seems, of the current state of inertia Liverpool are in, with no clear sense of who will actually own the club in a year's time. The ownership issue remains the millstone around Liverpool's neck. In the meantime, Benitez hopes for progress in Europe which will enable him to focus on Liverpool's title bid, for the time being.
Liverpool's recent home record has not been formidable against Spanish opposition — two wins and four defeats in the last 11 — but they are unbeaten in seven European homes ties and Benitez can draw on the poor domestic start for Atletico.
"We're out of intensive care but we're still in hospital," Atletico Madrid coach Javier Aguirre said after a first win in five league games against Mallorca on Saturday. Argentina striker Sergio Aguero is likely to start, despite lacking full fitness and that has given rise to suggestions that Diego Maradona may be at Anfield. But even he couldn't upstage Torres.