IAN RUSH: Who I think Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez should replace Fernando Torres with

By Ian Rush on Apr 20, 10 07:39 AM in Columnists

torresinjury450.jpg

I WASN'T really surprised to hear Fernando Torres is out for the rest of the season.

Disappointed, yes. Surprised, no.

Bearing in mind the last few seasons he's had, playing through gruelling Premier League and Champions League campaigns straight into the European Championships and Confederation Cup, he's hardly had a rest.


When Torres got injured earlier in the season you hoped maybe that was the break he needed. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case.

People were quick to criticise Rafa Benitez when he substituted Torres at Birmingham with 25 minutes to go. The Liverpool manager obviously knew something the rest of us didn't.

He knew Torres was struggling with his knee and was trying to nurse him through the remainder of the season.

We know what a big loss Torres is for Liverpool when he's not available.

The question now though, is who should replace him?

Among Dirk Kuyt, David Ngog and Ryan Babel, one name that hasn't been mentioned much is Dani Pacheco.

While the young Spaniard has certainly got the kind of intelligence and ability to change a game, I'm not sure he's the one to come in for Torres yet. His size means he could struggle leading the line on his own, and would probably be better playing off someone.

Babel has shown a good attitude to come back into the side and play well.

He can be anything he wants to in the game but needs to find consistency.

With five - possibly six - games remaining, it would be a gamble playing Babel up there.

Ngog has done as well as can be expected of him when he's been asked to cover for Torres.

Although he didn't score at St Andrews I was impressed with his movement against Birmingham.

But as a striker you're judged on goals and he tends to snatch at chances whereas Torres will take that extra split second to gain his composure.

Ngog is on a massive learning curve and it may take one goal - hopefully the one he got last night against West Ham - for him to turn it around. And maybe that will persuade Rafa to give him a run in the side.

But with vital games coming up, I'd go with Kuyt's experience as the safe option.

Liverpool can keep on aiming for fourth

THE early goal was the main difference between last night's win over West Ham and the draw against Fulham.

It changes everything. There was only one team in it after Yossi Benayoun opened the scoring.

West Ham have had a decent run lately but this was a result Liverpool were fully expected to get.

Benayoun was instrumental.

Aside from his goal he was involved in much of what Liverpool offered going forward.

His experience can be crucial in these games, against teams that like to play.

Now, instead of worrying about the likes of Everton coming up behind us, we keep aiming for fourth place.

Reds face stern Europa League test against Atletico Madrid

I WOULDN'T read too much into Atletico Madrid's domestic form.

A 2-1 defeat to Villarreal at the weekend has left them mid-table in La Liga when they are typically challenging for a Champions League place at this stage of the season.

It has been a disappointing campaign in terms of their league form but Atletico are proving to be a dangerous cup side.

Any team that beats Valencia over two legs must have something about them.

It reminds me of Liverpool in 2005 when we won the Champions League. Things didn't go well in the league but in Europe we were flying.

Atletico will fancy that this is their year in the Europa League.

Having played them in the Champions League group stage last season - plus with two of their former players, Fernando Torres and Maxi Rodriguez, in our ranks - we will have our homework done on Atletico.

Between Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero they have plenty of goals in them.

For me, Aguero is the main threat in attack but Forlan will want to do well back on English soil again, particularly against Liverpool due to his Manchester United links.

We need to start in Madrid as we did in Lisbon against Benfica in the previous round.

Daniel Agger's early goal gave us a lift and something to hang on to for the second leg. I'm certain we would have got a second if Ryan Babel hadn't been sent off.

Another away goal could be vital.

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