Hodgson sees light at end of tunnel for Torres
FERNANDO Torres has overcome the persistent injury troubles which have plagued him for more than a year and is finally ready to return to his explosive best, according to Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson.
Two knee operations, as well as groin and abdominal injuries, hampered the Spanish international last season, while his start to the current campaign has been affected by his recovery from a hamstring strain sustained just minutes after his introduction as a substitute in the World Cup final.
Though he has looked short of both form and fitness this term -- Torres has scored just once, a fine instinctive effort against West Brom -- Hodgson has seen enough in recent weeks to convince him his totemic striker has his old confidence back .
"Fernando is getting better and better," said the Liverpool manager. "He was behind our last four goals, two against (Manchester) United and two against Sunderland, and he will get confidence from that.
"I said all along it was just a matter of time and it is good to see him getting closer to his level.
"He trains every day like everyone else, he plays at the weekend like everyone else, so there is no reason now to separate him from the group. The injury problems are behind him. We have been keeping a close eye on him and we did not want to throw him in too often or too soon, but I would not dream of playing him tonight if I did not think he could play on Sunday.
"There is nothing wrong with his confidence. Of course, he would like a goal, because everyone knows goalscorers thrive on goals, they take confidence from it and when they dry up it affects them. But the thing with top goalscorers is, you know that it will come again."
Hodgson has not yet decided, he insists, whether the Spaniard will start tonight -- he admits that one lesson he did learn from last week's humiliation against Northampton was the importance of naming a strong bench -- but he will be without both Daniel Agger and Steven Gerrard at the compact Stadion Galgenwaard.
The Dane is rated as a doubt for Sunday's visit of Blackpool thanks to a groin injury, while Gerrard has been granted a rest by his manager as he recovers from a back strain, though Hodgson dismissed concerns his captain's age is catching up with him.
"He suffers from back pain and we did not want to exacerbate the situation," he said. "But Gerrard is the least of my concerns. I'm not in the slightest bit worried I will have to (rest him) regularly."
The Liverpool manager makes no secret that his decision to omit the 30-year-old was made significantly easier by his side's good start to the group stage, but that should not suggest Hodgson is taking his opponents lightly. Far from it.
While on paper this may have the air of a mismatch -- Utrecht have never won a league title in their current incarnation, while Liverpool are one of Europe's most decorated teams -- the 62-year-old is evidently a firm believer that all history is bunk.
"There is no point talking about respective histories," he said. "We are both here on merit.
"There is no point saying we won the league in 1970 or whatever and Utrecht have never won one. They serve no purpose.
"This is Liverpool 2010 versus Utrecht 2010." (© Daily Telegraph, London).
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