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Torres shows frustration as struggles continue

It was a minor detail of Chelsea's training session in the Hong Kong Stadium yesterday, but a telling one nevertheless.

After a sloppy pass from Yuri Zhirkov had forced to him run around the ball, onto his favoured right foot, Fernando Torres could only scuff his shot meekly towards goal. He promptly rounded on Zhirkov, launching into a prolonged complaint as his team-mate looked on, bemused.

For all the protestations from Chelsea that Torres is training well, is improving, is looking sharper after a rare summer of rest, there is little evidence that the club is getting an adequate return for the £50m investment made in the striker in January. Not yet, anyway.

Torres has played in three 'official' pre-season friendlies and has failed to score, having struck just once in 18 games last season. He did score in a behind-closed-doors training ground match against Wycombe Wanderers but in front of spectators he has struggled against Portsmouth, Malaysia and a Thai Premier League Select XI, albeit in unforgiving heat and humidity.

Shots have been snatched, delayed, miscued. He is not attacking the space or linking up with other players effectively. His running appears laboured, but that could be a product of the training sessions new manager Andre Villas-Boas has been conducting, creating heavy legs. Torres' explosive pace? Nowhere to be seen. The season has not kicked off yet, and players do peak at different times, but Torres appears to have a long way to go.

His name is writ large on Chelsea's Asia Tour not least because his face features heavily in all the advertising and promotional material.

Understandably the World Cup winner is the centre of attention. Tonight he will play -- although probably not start, as Villas-Boas rotates his squad -- against Kitchee, a local Hong Kong side, as part of the Asia Trophy which also includes Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers.

How Torres needs a goal. Questions have been asked, prompting Villas-Boas to accuse the media of having an "obsession" with the Spaniard. But it is clear that Torres himself knows he has to score soon to quieten the debate.

"I'm 27. I don't forget to score goals. I will score," he said abruptly yesterday, when asked if he was concerned. "It's going to be a long season and now is a time to get ready. My form is okay, like my team-mates. We have a new manager and it's time to get ready."

Meanwhile, Chelsea are also set to complete the signing of midfielder Oriol Romeu, from Barcelona B, for €5m with no buy-back clause, as the Spanish club had at first demanded. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent