Fernando Torres is in a race against time to be fit to face his former team, Club Atlético de Madrid, with Liverpool FC boss Rafael Benítez giving him a 70 per cent chance of being ready for the Group D encounter.
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Fernando Torres is in a race against time to be fit to face his former team, Club Atlético de Madrid, with Liverpool FC manager Rafael Benítez giving him a 70 per cent chance of being ready for the UEFA Champions League encounter at Anfield.
The Spanish international has missed the Reds' last five matches because of a thigh strain, including the 1-1 Matchday 3 draw against Atlético, and Benítez will make a decision about Torres on the morning of the Group D return game. "He is 70 per cent ready," said Benítez. "We have to train, we will talk to him and then decide. If the player has confidence, OK you can take the risk, but if he has no confidence, you have to wait. Clearly he likes to play against anyone, and especially against Atlético. He has a very good relationship with the fans and also with the club."
Torres, who scored more than a hundred goals for Atlético before his €30m transfer in summer 2007, has been a sensation at Liverpool, although they had been doing well without him until they surrendered a three-point lead at the top of the English Premier League on Saturday. A stoppage-time goal condemned the Merseysiders to a 2-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur FC, pushing them into second place behind Chelsea FC on goal difference following their first defeat this season. "We just have to keep doing the same things and try to take our chances and not make mistakes in defence. I'm pleased with all the strikers because we were winning without Fernando," said Benítez, before adding: "Sometimes we need to be more clinical."
Both sides are on seven points at the Group D summit, four above PSV Eindhoven, and either could reach the knockout rounds provided they win and PSV lose at Olympique de Marseille. Benítez highlighted Atlético's Argentina forward, Sergio Agüero, as just one of several offensive threats. Agüero scored twice in Saturday's 2-0 home win against RCD Mallorca, a result which ended a run of four Liga games without a victory as Atlético climbed to sixth place, nine points behind frontrunners FC Barcelona.
Coach Javier Aguirre, who will not be able to communicate directly with his Atlético players as he begins a two-match UEFA ban, includes former Liverpool attackers Luis García and Florent Sinama Pongolle in his squad. Goalkeeper Grégory Coupet is back after a thigh injury, but the Frenchman may be on the bench following Leo Franco’s solid display against Mallorca. Czech international centre-back Tomáš Ujfaluši and Greece defender Giourkas Seitaridis are both out injured.
Far from fearing the name Torres on the team sheet, Aguirre said he welcomes the prospect. "We want to play against a fully-fit Fernando Torres so we can measure ourselves to see how we do against a full-strength Liverpool," said Aguirre. "We have taken this competition so seriously and we have done very well up to now, but we can't appraise our success until the six games of the first phase have been completed. Whenever I start any game, I go with the intention of winning, whether it's at home or on any opposition ground."