Feb 15 2008
by Ian Doyle, Liverpool Daily Post
FERNANDO TORRES has been passed fit for Liverpool’s Champions League showdown with Inter Milan next week – but the Spaniard won’t be risked in tomorrow’s FA Cup fifth round tie against Barnsley.
Torres sat out the goalless draw at Chelsea last Sunday after suffering a tear of the hamstring while on international duty with Spain 10 days ago.
The striker has now resumed full training, but Rafael Benitez is mindful of Torres’s aborted early comeback from an adductor injury earlier in the campaign.
The Liverpool manager will instead hold the 23-year-old back until the arrival of Inter on Tuesday in the Champions League first knockout round first leg tie that could shape the remainder of their season.
Along with Torres, the defensive trio of Sami Hyypia, Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Aurelio have also returned to training this week after overcoming their respective injuries.
Hyypia, who had a minor hip complaint, is the most likely to be thrust back into the starting line-up tomorrow as Martin Skrtel is sidelined by a calf problem.
Skrtel suffered the damage in training this week, and Benitez has all but written off the Slovakian centre-back’s chances of being available for the visit of Inter.
Of Torres, Benitez said: “It could be too much of a risk to play Fernando against Barnsley. We have Hyypia, Arbeloa, Aurelio and Torres that we need to check on Friday so we can see whether to risk them. Every player is important to us, but Torres has been scoring goals so we have to be careful. The key for me will be to see how the player is after training.
“Skrtel felt something in his calf the other day. He only mentioned it after training, and after speaking with the doctors we realised it could be a risk for the weekend. We need to check, but I don’t think he will be available for the Barnsley game.”
Daniel Agger will miss both games as he continues his lengthy rehabilitation from the broken metatarsal that has kept him out for more than five months.
And although the Denmark international has stepped up his recovery, Benitez admits the centre-back must overcome a significant mental barrier before being considered for first-team action.
“Agger is improving and was training today and playing football,” said Benitez yesterday. “He is better than before but he will need time. It depends if he feels something or not.
“Sometimes when a player is injured for a long time, they need to understand they will feel something. So it depends on the player and we will also speak with the doctors.”
Meanwhile, Benitez is confident Liverpool are edging closer to completing the permanent signing of Javier Mascherano despite fresh reports linking the Argentine with a move elsewhere.
Mascherano had expected his move to be wrapped up by the end of last week but speculation in Spain has suggested the player has been offered to Barcelona.
“We are closer than we were one week ago but I don’t know how close,” said Benitez. “Mascherano isn’t a concern for me. I think it’s very, very close. I don’t talk directly for the lawyers but I’m sure it’s close. I think it will be okay.”