Tuesday 12 December 2017

Benayoun targets trophy tonic for Torres

The Liverpool team board the train. Photo: PA
The Liverpool team board the train. Photo: PA

Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun wants to win the Europa League to pay back injured striker Fernando Torres.

The Spain international is out for the rest of the Reds' campaign, meaning for the second successive season he will not play against his former club having missed both of their Champions League encounters last year.

But Benayoun said although Torres was recuperating from a second knee operation in four months he was not forgotten ahead of Thursday's semi-final first leg.

"Fernando is the best striker in the world and with him it is much easier but unfortunately he is injured and cannot play," said the Israeli, who scored the opening goal in last night's 3-0 Barclays Premier League victory over West Ham.

"We need to give more to try to play for him because he won us a lot of games and played a big part in us getting to the semi-final.

"I wanted for him to play against his old club because that would have been a special moment for him.

"Last time we played them he couldn't play. He deserves to play against his old fans but this is football and life.

"We need to try to win the game for him and all the club."

The win over West Ham lifted spirits ahead of a lengthy trip to Madrid which began this afternoon when the squad departed for London on the train and, after an overnight stay in Paris, was scheduled to finish in the Spanish capital 24 hours after it started.

There is a slight possibility the squad could catch a flight in London if pockets in the cloud of volcanic ash allowed British airspace to re-open but that seems an unlikely prospect.

"It is always good to get the win and get the confidence back before a big game on Thursday," said Benayoun, who stressed winning the Europa League would not paper over the cracks of a difficult season for the Merseysiders.

"We are in a good mood to go to Madrid and try to win.

"We want to win a trophy and we are now very close so we need to do everything to make sure we get a good result to bring back for the second leg.

"It has been a disappointing season so far and we need to finish with a trophy to give everyone a better feeling.

"Winning the Europa League would give us a better feeling but if we don't finish top four we cannot say it is a success - but any trophy you win is great for any club.

"Of course we'd prefer to be in the Champions League and win that but the Europa League is interesting and there are a lot of good teams."

Victory over the Hammers maintained Liverpool's outside chance of catching fourth-placed Tottenham but with a five-point gap and only three matches left Benayoun accepts it would take an unlikely set of results to change things.

"It is very difficult [to get the top four]. We need to be realistic but the only thing we can do is try," he added.

"Mathematically we can still do it so with the points that are left we need to do our best to win the remaining games and get a bit of luck from the other results."

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola has concerns at the other end of the table, with his side three points above the relegation zone having played one match more than 18th-placed Hull.

He was disappointed by his players' lack of fight at Anfield but believes the players will rectify that against Wigan at the weekend.

"In the changing room everyone knew we made mistakes and did not play the way we should have played," he said.

"I wanted to make sure they reacted straight away and I think I saw that and we will be ready for Saturday (against Wigan).

"Sometimes it happens. Some games it is not your day and you make mistakes but what I'm looking for is a reaction on Saturday.

"It is important on Saturday we don't make the same mistakes. The only way to deal with the pressure is to work hard and that is what we have been doing.

"We will be focused on our job and give it everything we've got and I'm sure the pressure will go."

Zola allayed fears over the fitness of striker Carlton Cole after he was substituted late in the game.

"Cole has some issues with his knee and we saw he was struggling a little bit so we took him off as a precaution," said the Hammers boss.

"But he will be flying on Saturday."

Press Association

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