Torres misses training as Rafa urges Liverpool focus
The Spanish manager has reacted remarkably phlegmatically to Saturday’s defeat at Sunderland
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is facing up to one of the biggest challenges of his career this week as he seeks to motivate his team to defeat the league leaders of both France (Lyon) and England (Manchester United) in the space of five days. Coming off the back of Saturday's morale-leeching defeat at Sunderland, when Darren Bent scored the game's only goal for the home side courtesy of a deflection off a Liverpool fan's beach ball that had strayed onto the pitch, and the enormity of the task becomes more apparent.
The news hasn't got any better today, as it was confirmed that striker Fernando Torres missed a training session at Liverpool's Melwood centre ahead of tomorrow's Champions League tie with Olympique Lyonnais. His teammate Steven Gerrard was able to turn out today, but Benitez will be hoping that he can get his full strike force working in tandem in time for the Anfield clash on Tuesday.
The nature of the club's predicament has not escaped their veteran defender Jamie Carragher. "I am sure there will be a lot of stick flying around before the Lyon game," the centre back said after the weekend loss. "We are not playing well, the supporters know that and we have given ourselves a mountain to climb. There is a long way to go yet but we are seven points behind Manchester United and, if we continue losing, it will be the end. [This] week is going to be massive."
Benitez, volatile at the best of times, has remained surprisingly phlegmatic in the wake of the Sunderland game. He dismissed suggestions that Bent's goal should have been disallowed, and chose instead to focus minds to the task ahead. "You can guarantee that if we win against Lyon the mood will change, and if we can win against United [on Sunday, the mood will be totally different.
"The Champions League is a different competition and the players know the fans will be behind them, so it can be a big boost for us," Benitez told the club's website. "The fans know when the team needs support and they are behind us. Our fans are the best in the world, and when we need something they are there pushing us."
Meanwhile, former Liverpool legend Alan Hansen has joined in the chorus of disapproval aimed at Benitez. The one-time Anfield defensive stalwart and Match of the Day pundit claimed in his Daily Telegraph column that while the Spaniard has a good record when it comes to signing players in the £10m-plus bracket - such as Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson - he has not spent wisely on the bits-and-pieces squad members who come in between £3m and £10m who haul a team through the season.
Pointing to Manchester United and Arsenal, Hansen says that no one of the calibre of Nemanja Vidic or Thomas Vermaelen have been signed, meaning the strain on the lead players to perform is high. "We all know that they rely heavily on their two out-and-out superstars - Torres and Steven Gerrard - but whenever they are out, other players must step up and deliver and it isn't happening." ·
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