Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Benitez backs Torres to lead Blues

Fernando Torres enjoyed fine goalscoring form in the Europa League this season

Rafael Benitez is confident striker Fernando Torres can return to being an unstoppable force as the interim boss prepares for his final competitive game at Chelsea.

Torres has endured a challenging two-and-a-half year spell at Stamford Bridge since his £50million move from Liverpool in January 2011, but netted six goals in six Europa League appearances this season, including in the final as the Blues beat Benfica in the Amsterdam final on Wednesday.

"It's more than just me," said Benitez, when asked about Torres' improvement, before he cited assistant coaches Steve Holland, Boudewijn Zenden and fitness coaches Paco de Miguel and Chris Jones for their efforts. "They have improved him. He has more pace, more confidence and he can score important goals for us."

Benitez added: "He has to keep working in the same way and I think that with a pre-season he will have plenty of team to improve himself physically. It's a question of keeping training the same way that he's training now and with confidence, he has the potential."

Torres, who last found the net in the Premier League against Aston Villa in December, has cut a forlorn figure at times, ploughing a lone furrow up front.

Benitez added: "When you see a striker that is not scoring as many goals as he wants to score, this can happen. Now he's enjoying himself."

On his arrival, Benitez felt Chelsea could mount a Premier League title challenge, but a congested season - Sunday's match will be the Blues' 69th of the campaign - has played its part in ensuring that ambition was never close to being fulfilled.

To take on Manchester United, Benitez felt Chelsea needed to sign players in January and augment a squad which is packed with quality, but short of numbers in a transitional period, following the departures of the likes of Didier Drogba.

Benitez refused to criticise the board for not weighing into the transfer market, with striker Demba Ba the one major January addition, but he has fulfilled his brief by delivering a Champions League return.

"Always [it] can be better," Benitez said. "We cannot change what happened and we have to think of the future as a positive. The club had an idea. We have been successful in one of the big competitions and we are virtually qualified for the Champions League. So in the end it was fine."

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