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Benitez frets over Torres fitness

Fernando Torres
European champions Spain host England in Seville on 11 February

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has voiced his concern over Fernando Torres' participation in Spain's friendly against England next week.

Benitez said it would be a "risk" to play a striker who has been troubled with hamstring injuries this season.

"Everyone can see Torres is not quite up to his full fitness yet after his last hamstring injury," said Benitez.

"There's no point worrying about him playing for Spain because we know he will be selected, whatever we say."

Torres scored twice in Liverpool 2-0 win over Chelsea last Sunday, but failed to inspire the Reds in midweek as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Merseyside rivals Everton.

Benitez felt Torres' inconsistency was down to a lack of match fitness and admitted it was a "big decision" to make over whether to play the Spaniard against Portsmouth on Saturday.

European champions Spain host England in Seville on 11 February.

My squad is strong enough - Benitez

And Benitez added: "The Spanish manager Vicente del Bosque has tried to contact me, but we missed each other. But we will talk. We have been speaking to the Spanish squad's fitness coach, so they know the situation.

"He was capable of scoring two against Chelsea last weekend but also looking tired against Everton.

"We took him off against Everton because he was just not able to work any more towards the end.

"Spain know our players are involved in a lot of games now and they will take care of him.

"The problem now is that Spain are doing so well, they want to keep everybody together and they want to continue to create a very good atmosphere.

"I understand, it is not easy for the manager. But they know about our season."

Torres' importance to Liverpool's ambitions at home and abroad has increased following the news that captain Steven Gerrard is expected to be sidelined for three weeks with a torn hamstring.

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The duo have accounted for 77 of Liverpool's goals in the past 19 months, while Benitez's attacking options have been reduced following Robbie Keane's return to Tottenham on transfer deadline day.

Benitez, however, maintained that his squad was strong enough to challenge Premier League leaders Manchester United for the title.

The Liverpool manager said: "Now we have an international break that will be good for Stevie to recover, and although we would rather still be in the FA Cup, we now have a situation where we will have to play less games this season and that could help us in other directions.

"I still feel that we have enough quality in our squad to cope with such problems, we have plenty of players who can fit in up front and in midfield.

"We must play a few games without Stevie, but we have options even after selling Robbie Keane.

"I am really pleased with Ryan Babel's progress at the moment, and in Dirk Kuyt we have a player you can guarantee will play well and give everything.

"He is a fantastic player, a great professional and he is always positive. He is not a player you need to talk much to about coping with difficult situations.

"If Torres is ready, that is another important option. But I also believe we have good young players who can come in."


see also
Portsmouth v Liverpool
06 Feb 09 |  Premier League
Capello to make Rooney decision
06 Feb 09 |  Internationals
Everton 1-0 Liverpool (aet)
04 Feb 09 |  FA Cup
Moyes elated after derby triumph
05 Feb 09 |  Football
Benitez explains Keane departure
03 Feb 09 |  Liverpool
Keane seals 12m Tottenham return
02 Feb 09 |  Tottenham
Liverpool hit by Torres setback
04 Dec 08 |  Liverpool


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