Belfast Telegraph

Fernando Torres still tops with Liverpool goal king Ian Rush

By Steven Beacom

Liverpool legend Ian Rush believes Fernando Torres can spoil Gerard Houllier's return to Anfield tonight.

Torres has had a difficult season, with low points outweighing highlights, but Rush, who knows a thing or two about scoring goals, is confident the Spaniard will deliver against Houllier's Aston Villa side in what is a crucial Premier League clash.

Torres struck a brilliant brace to beat Chelsea at Anfield last month, but for the most part in this campaign he has looked a shadow of the striker labelled the best in world football just a year ago.

Last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Spurs summed things up.

With Liverpool leading 1-0 Torres raced clear either side of half-time with opportunities to secure a rare away victory for Roy Hodgson's side.

Instead of smacking the ball into the net, as a fully firing Torres would have done, he delayed on both occasions allowing Tottenham to clear.

He who hesitates is lost. That's definitely true of forwards.

Rush was one of the greatest ever, scoring 346 times for Liverpool in two spells in which he and the Merseyside outfit collected trophies galore. He is the ideal man to ask about the form of Liverpool's current number nine.

“In my opinion Fernando Torres is a world class player,” said Rush.

“He's proved that for Liverpool in the past and he showed it against Chelsea earlier this season. What Liverpool need now is for him to do it for the rest of this campaign.

“He had chances against Tottenham and while he didn't take them the good thing was that he was getting in the right areas. I would say that if those chances come along against Aston Villa he will take them.”

Houllier will have to ensure opportunities don't come the way of Torres then.

Like his Liverpool counterpart Hodgson, former Reds boss Houllier is already under pressure at Villa.

“Gerard Houllier was a terrific manager for Liverpool and it will be nice seeing him at Anfield again. I'm sure he will get a great reception from the crowd,” said Rush, who rates a treble in the 80s against Villa as his best hat-trick — and there were quite a few of those to choose from.

“The match with Villa is a big one because it starts off a really busy time running up to Christmas and the New Year so it would be great to win that one and get some momentum going. Villa, though, will think the same thing.”

Liverpool must gain that momentum without their two most influential figures, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, who are both injured.

Rush adds: “It is massive blow, not just on the pitch, but in terms of leadership off it. Losing Carra late on at White Hart Lane was vital because if he had been on the pitch I'm sure Tottenham would not have scored their winning goal. He is a great organiser and makes sure people are in the right places and when he is not there he is missed.

“As for Steven Gerrard he is a truly great player so he is a massive loss to the club. Injuries happen in football, however, so now is the time for someone else to take responsibility and see how good they can be.”

Rush was in Belfast on Friday to announce a new Liverpool FC football academy in Northern Ireland. He was also at the impressive new club shop in the city signing hundreds of autographs.

“Liverpool have fans all over the world and here in Northern Ireland there is a big following,” he said.

“They are always making the journey across to Liverpool so it is nice for Liverpool to come to Belfast. The shop is giving something back to the fans and it's no more than they deserve.”

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