Liverpool's Fernando Torres will strike back in style, says Roy Hodgson
Fernando Torres will lead the line for Liverpool at Anfield tonight as manager Roy Hodgson looks to play his striker into the form that makes him a ‘great player.’
No rest: Fernando Torres trains yesterday in preparation to face Utrecht at Anfield tonight
While there will be some academy products on display in tonight's final Europa League group game against Utrecht, Torres will be in attack despite already having clinched qualification.
Since coming back from a World Cup in which David Villa overshadowed him in Spain's attack, Torres has played fitfully for Liverpool, one exceptional display against Chelsea aside.
“It would be good for Fernando to play alongside Ryan Babel for at least part of the game,” explained Hodgson.
“He knows what a great player he is and when things are not going well for him, he is the first to recognise that.
“I have told Fernando that we believe him to be one of the best front players in Europe and the fact that he has not played at his level over the past couple of months does not change that.
“Goalkeepers and strikers in particular play on such small margins of error that the difference between being carried down the high street in a sedan chair and being vilified is infinitesimal.”
Meanwhile, Utrecht coach Ton du Chatinier has urged his players to enjoy themselves in their final Europa League outing.
The Dutch side cannot qualify for the last 32 and have arrived on Merseyside hoping to give a good account of themselves, having
caused the Reds problems in the goalless draw in Holland.
“We want to play a good game because a lot of supporters have come from Holland,” he said.
“There are between 3,500-4,000 people because when we qualified for the Europa League and they saw we drew Liverpool they wanted to come over to England.
“For us it is a big game against big names in a very famous stadium. We have a young team and for the players it is nice to play over here against some very big names.”
One of those will not be Steven Gerrard and Roy Hodgson even admits his captain's anticipated return from a hamstring injury this weekend is “touch and go”.
The midfielder has not featured for his club since November 13 at Stoke after sustaining the problem on England duty four days later.
Last week Hodgson pencilled in Saturday's match at home to Fulham for a comeback, but now he is not so sure.
“Steven Gerrard is not fit and will be touch and go for Fulham,” he said. “He is training every day and training harder than anyone
and doing the work with the sports science and fitness people.
“If you look at the statistics after training every day as to who has done the most running it is probably Gerrard and Daniel Agger (who has a calf problem), as they are the two trying to get fit.
“I am hoping against hope it will be towards the end of the week and they will be able to considered for the weekend, in particular Steven who is ahead of Daniel, but I don't know if that is the case.”
Earlier the Reds boss had suggested he wanted the 30-year-old back in full training sessions by Thursday in order to be able to select him for the weekend, but he is also conscious of bringing the player back too quickly.
“We have to be careful there is no risk of the injury reoccurring and I am in the hands of the sports science people as to when he can come back,” he said.
“I take their word for it and I can't really push the subject because I would be devastated if we brought him back too early.
“If he is going to start the game against Fulham I want him back training with us on Thursday.”