11 March 2008

Torres will terrorise Inter

Last updated at 22:10pm on 10th March 2008

Rafa Benitez bought more than the promise of a steady supply of goals when he paid Atletico Madrid £21million for Fernando Torres.
It may have seemed a hefty outlay at the time, but a quick glance at events since suggests the Liverpool manager has plenty to show for his money.
Twenty-five goals from 35 appearances, culminating in the Barclays Premier League Player of the Month award for February, has to be the most telling return of all.
There has been plenty more besides from the Spain striker. Not least the effect his incisive running and explosive finishing has had on those around him.
Confidence levels throughout the team have soared during a recent scoring burst that has brought him two hat-tricks and the transformation was never more evident than in the way Steven Gerrard cast an eye over Liverpool's Champions League prospects before Tuesday's return meeting with Inter Milan here at San Siro.
After stinging Inter with two late goals in the first leg, Gerrard could have been forgiven for advising caution and warning that his side's renowned durability in Europe faced its sternest test so far.
Instead, the Liverpool skipper argued it was the runaway Serie A leaders whose preparations would be plagued by doubt and a sense of dread — and the bold forecast was based entirely on the havoc Torres can wreak on opposing defences.
Inter's back-line was left in disarray at Anfield and Torres' direct approach unhinged them to such a degree that Marco Materazzi was ordered off for a second bookable offence in only the 30th minute.
The former Everton centre-back's subsequent ban has left a thankless man-marking job up for grabs and whoever gets the vote can count on Gerrard's sympathy.
As Liverpool prepared to try to make it a clean sweep of English clubs in Friday's quarter-final draw, Gerrard saluted the Spaniard's impact.
'Materazzi was given a roasting by Fernando in the first game and while he might think he was hard done by, he could have been booked for a bad tackle before the first yellow card, never mind the second one. It just shows how easily Fernando's pace and strength can unsettle even a World Cup winner.
'The lad who comes in for Materazzi won't be looking forward to his 90 minutes against Fernando, that's for sure.
'If they fly at us from the first minute, I know we can defend all night if we have to. But I actually believe we are going to worry the hell out of them. They will be reluctant to over-commit against us, because they got nothing at Anfield. No change from the defence, no possession and no time to settle.
'We will be going for them again because we know we can score there and kill the tie.
'Fernando has been brilliant. I wouldn't swap him for any other striker in the world. He gives us so many things up front. Whether he is banging the goals in as a lone striker or alongside someone, he always adapts and looks a threat wherever he plays.
'We will be looking to play on the counter attack in Milan and he does that better than anyone. You can stick the ball over the top and let him chase it or watch him make something happen for himself, like he did in Marseille.
'England seems to suit him even better than Spain. He seems more suited to the constant flow and rough and tumble of the Premier League than the stop-start technical stuff in La Liga.
'And the great thing is, he is just a kid in footballing terms. He is going to get better and better. That is a frightening thought, not for us but for defences trying to cope with him over the next five years — hopefully even longer.
'He has made life tough for the foreign boys who sign for Premier League clubs. After the impact he's made in seven months, no one can come here and make excuses about needing time to settle in.'
Gerrard still has a starry-eyed side to him, for all the miles covered and medals won, and he described his excitement at the thought of stepping out at San Siro for the first time.
'I'm relishing it, because it's another one to tick off my list,' he said. 'I've played at the Nou Camp and a lot of famous stadiums around the world, but this is a new one for me.
'Fans like going to famous grounds and I am just the same. I want to play in the “cathedrals” around Europe.'
Benitez is likely to retain a partnership of Torres up front with Gerrard just behind and Liverpool's record signing was quick to repay the compliment.
'I'm always happy to play with great players,' said Torres. 'If you play with someone like Stevie, who is maybe the best player in the world, it can only help you. He is a great passer and he can score goals — he is unbelievable.'

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