Vidic unfazed by reunion with chief tormentor Torres
Published 05/04/2011 | 05:00
It must be out of respect for his past deeds that bookmakers have priced Fernando Torres as 5/1 joint favourite with Didier Drogba to open the scoring in Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Manchester United.
The £50m forward has clocked up 527 minutes without a goal for Chelsea since his arrival from Liverpool but is still expected to partner Drogba up front at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night.
Chelsea's faith in Torres remains undimmed by his failure to score and there is a belief at the club that it may not be until next season that supporters will see the best of the 27-year-old, whose stunning transfer was orchestrated by owner Roman Abramovich.
The billionaire is adamant that Torres will be Chelsea's main striker and that he is capable of scoring the goals that will win the Champions League.
Indeed, the law of averages dictates that, sooner or later, the goals that have defined Torres' career will start flowing again.
And like Tiger Woods replaying winning putts through his mind or Jonny Wilkinson recalling the dropped goal that delivered a World Cup, Torres need only look into the eyes of Nemanja Vidic to remind himself of the player he was and can be again.
"It is strange how certain opponents bring out the best in players," said Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish. "They look down the teamsheet and think they can cause damage, while the opponent will be dreading a reunion.
"It's the case with Torres and Vidic. It really is true that knowing what you've done against a certain player or team in the past can breed confidence."
To suggest that Torres is kryptonite to Vidic's Superman would be buying into one of the Premier League's urban myths, yet the Spanish forward has enjoyed more good days than bad against United's captain.
Vidic attempted to brush off some injury-enforced ring rust during United's 4-2 victory at West Ham at the weekend. And although Carlton Cole and Demba Ba tormented him during his first United outing since suffering a calf injury two weeks ago, no forward has successfully replicated the corrosive effect on the Serbian's psyche inflicted by Torres.
The nadir for United's defensive cornerstone came during Liverpool's 4-1 victory at Old Trafford in March 2009, when Torres scored and Vidic, torn apart by the striker's pace and hunger, was sent off for fouling Steven Gerrard.
Vidic was dismissed again seven months later, for fouling Dirk Kuyt, in a 2-0 defeat at Anfield that was sparked by Torres escaping Rio Ferdinand to open the scoring.
The Spaniard scored again, when he outjumped Vidic to convert a close-range header, during United's 2-1 Old Trafford victory in March 2010.
In his last two games against Torres, Vidic has at least prevented the Spaniard from scoring and he insists he has no fears about facing the Chelsea striker.
"Sometimes you read people saying that certain players have a hard job against someone else," Vidic said.
"Obviously, this is the opinion some people have (about him and Torres) because they always mention it. I can only change it on the pitch, not by saying what I think, and it just makes me more focused to do my job."
While Vidic's strengths are multi-layered, the searing pace exhibited by a fully-fit Torres is a problem he has regularly struggled to solve.
But the Torres he will face in west London tomorrow night is currently a shadow of the player who once threatened to leave a permanent stain on Vidic's reputation.
And having also traded bruises with Drogba over the years, United's captain will not be focusing solely on Torres.
"We have respect for their attacking players," Vidic said. "It doesn't matter if they haven't scored a goal.
"They will try to score, but this is two games and it's most important who will go through and not who will score the goals."
Meanwhile, John Terry, who missed in the penalty shoot-out in the 2008 final against United, has spoken of his "desperation" to win the Champions League.
"I'm 30 now and so desperate to win it," he said. "There have been many years when we have played well and got knocked out and others have played badly and got through.
"It's about being solid and at times getting a bit of luck because we have been the better team and not got the luck we deserved." (© Daily Telegraph, London)