Thursday 19 April 2018

Cup run can save us: Torres

Striker looks to triumph four years ago to lift Liverpool's flagging spirits Photo: Getty Images
Striker looks to triumph four years ago to lift Liverpool's flagging spirits Photo: Getty Images

Graham Chase

Liverpool have not come close to rewarding Fernando Torres' brilliance with the silverware his exploits deserve, but the FA Cup could offer them some salvation in a miserable season.

Having won the Champions League in Rafael Benitez's first season in 2005, few would have thought that the FA Cup final win over West Ham the following year would be their only trophy in the next four seasons, despite Torres arriving to contribute a flurry of goals in 2007.

Although Liverpool pushed Manchester United hard for the Premier League last season, Torres has won nothing since arriving from Atletico Madrid.

Even before the row over Tom Hicks Jr's email, the start of the year had not been too promising, with Liverpool only managing a 1-1 FA Cup draw at Reading, who have won just one of their 12 home games in the Championship this season. The Reds are 12 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, and out of the Champions League.

The memories of shock losses to Bristol City, Bolton and more recently Barnsley will weigh heavily in the replay at Anfield tonight, but the prospect of a first trip to the new Wembley could help make up for what has been a humbling campaign both on and off the field.


Argentinian winger Maxi Rodriguez has yet to tie up his £1.5m move from Atletico but could finally arrive on Merseyside for a medical today after snow and negotiations over a pay-off with his former club delayed the dea.

Torres remains optimistic about the prospects for this season and feels that a run in the cup could galvanise the club.

"I remember watching the 2006 final -- it was a great match," the Spanish striker said.

"In this country it is the most important trophy after the title. Of course we want to finish in the top four too. If we could do that and win the cup it would be the best season we've had for the last three or four years.

"I know we finished second but to win something and finish in the top four would be better than that.

"In one game anything can happen. We have to be aware of that and remain focused to ensure teams don't surprise us. It was a tough evening for us there. Any time you go away to face a Championship team it is difficult.

"Hopefully we can overcome them in the replay. We are confident of doing so.

"Unfortunately this season is not turning out how we had wanted, but our best is still to come. Let's hope that we can put a string of good performances together and that we can put right what we've not done so well up to now."

Reading completed a loan deal for Andy Griffin until the end of the season yesterday but the Stoke defender is not available for this evening's match because he was not registered for the initial draw at the Madejski Stadium.

Benitez, meanwhile, has called for his side to show 'attitude' tonight.

The Spaniard has been on the end of a couple of cup upsets to lower-placed opposition: Burnley in 2005, during his first season in charge, and Barnsley two years ago.

With the FA Cup representing Liverpool's best chance of silverware this season -- although they have yet to launch their Europa League bid following their 'relegation' from the Champions league -- Benitez does not want to allow their unfancied visitors a glimmer of hope.

"We have to approach the game thinking about winning and not giving them any chances or any confidence that they can do something," he said.

"In the Premier League you have to win but if you can't, you say 'unlucky'. But in the cup you have to win.

"The attitude is more important against teams from a lower division. After that you know you have some quality, but attitude is the key.

"I remember (against Barnsley) and we were not doing badly. We had some chances and then conceded in the last minute. It was unlucky but it's the same situation now because it's a cup competition -- you have to win and can't make any mistakes."

Liverpool had to claw their way back into the initial third-round tie at on January 2 -- the last match played by either side because of the bad weather.

Steven Gerrard's first-half equaliser cancelled out Simon Church's opener but the Reds could not force a win.

That put a slight dent in confidence after back-to-back Premier League wins and Benitez knows this tie is crucial for the rest of their season.

For that reason, he will not make the same mistake he did against Burnley five years ago when he fielded a weakened side and saw his team embarrassed by Djimi Traore's comical own goal which put them out.

And even though their league campaign, which takes them to Stoke for an early kick-off on Saturday, is still more important, Benitez insists he is fully focused on reaching the fourth round.

"We know the FA Cup is a massive competition, so we want to progress and go forward as much as we can," he said. "The FA Cup is a very good option for us to win something this year.

"It would be very special to get to Wembley. We've been to Cardiff, but now we have to think about winning the first game."

Benitez is still without wingers Albert Riera, Nabil El Zhar and defender Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly -- all injured -- and the suspended Javier Mascherano.

And despite continuing speculation about the seriousness of Johnson's knee injury, the manager has not put a timescale on the England international right-back's recovery.

"He seems okay," said Benitez. "It's a question of time. He's progressing but we have to wait."

The Reading game signals the start of a run of five matches in 18 days and Benitez will be watching his squad closely to see how they recover.

Liverpool head to the Britannia Stadium at the weekend before hosting Tottenham the following Wednesday in a match hastily rearranged after being called off last weekend because of the snow.

There then follows a trip to Wolves, before the visit of Bolton at the end of the month. By the time Everton arrive at Anfield on February 6, Benitez will have a much better idea of whether his personal guarantee of fourth place made a month ago is still valid.

Liverpool v Reading,

Live, Setanta Ireland, 7.45

Irish Independent

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