Surgery ends Torres’ season and puts World Cup dream in doubt
THE GLOOM surrounding Liverpool's season deepened last night after Fernando Torres was ruled out for the rest of the campaign having undergone knee surgery in Spain.
Torres travelled to Barcelona from Merseyside by road and rail on Saturday, with his plans to fly back to his home country having been thwarted by the impact of the cloud of ash from the Icelandic volcano on flights from the UK.
The Spain forward was assessed by Dr Ramon Cugat for the second time in a week and it was decided after consultations throughout yesterday that the damage to the cartilage in Torres's right knee was so severe that only surgery could correct it.
The initial prognosis is that Torres will not be fit to return to action for six weeks so although he will not be forced to miss the World Cup, he is a doubt for Spain's first group game in the tournament, against Switzerland on June 16.
His club will suffer most by the setback. Torres is Liverpool's only topclass forward and his absence will put a dent in their hopes of ending the season with a trophy, with the Europa League their last chance of success.
The 26-year-old has been forced out of what would have been an emotional reunion with Atletico Madrid, his former club, in the Europa League semi-finals.
"It was decided that he would need surgery on a torn cartilage in his right knee," a Liverpool spokesman said. "As a guide, the usual rehabilitation period for this type of procedure is around six weeks."
The continuing travel problems could place the first leg of Liverpool's tie with Atletico in jeopardy. UEFA is set to decide today what measures need to be taken for Thursday's Europa League fixtures in the event of the continuation of air travel restrictions.
Forcing clubs to travel by sea or land is one option, although the 1,200 miles between Liverpool and Madrid would appear to make such a scenario unfeasible and the English FA has already made representations to this effect on behalf of the Merseyside club and Fulham, who are due to play away to Hamburg in their first leg on Thursday.
“The two Champions League semifinal, first legs will go ahead as scheduled this week despite the current restrictions on European air travel,” a UEFA statement read. “The refereeing team that has been announced for the match on Tuesday is so far maintained and a back-up appointment has been prepared in case it should prove necessary to make a replacement."
Tottenham Hotspur's eight-point lead over Liverpool in the Premier League means that Rafael Benitez's target of finishing in the top four looks an increasingly distant hope as he prepares his side for tonight's home game against West Ham United.
As such, the Liverpool manager has come to see the Europa League as his best and perhaps only hope of salvaging a season that even he acknowledges looks likely to be a disappointing one.
“The best possible finish to the season would be winning the Europa League or being in the top four,” Benitez said. “If not then you have to understand that a bad season is part of the game. I've not had many bad seasons, so that is a problem for me.”
Liverpool (possible; 4-2-3-1) – JM Reina - G Johnson, J Carragher, S Kyrgiakos, D Agger - Lucas Leiva, A Aquilani - M Rodriguez, S Gerrard, R Babel - D Kuyt.
West Ham United (probable; 4-4-2) – R Green - J Faubert, M Da Costa, M Upson, J Spector - J Stanislas, M Noble, R Kovac, V Behrami - C Cole, Ilan
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