Liverpool hopes rest entirely on Torres
We all have those items that we simply cannot afford to lose, your wallet, phone, house keys, mp3 player etc, but for Rafa Benitez he will have to find space in his thoughts, if not on the bedside table, for his priceless Spanish striker Fernando Torres.
Bentitez’s willingness to allow Robbie Keane to return to Tottenham after only a few dismal months rather than stick with the Irishman, a proven goalscorer in the Premier league, leaves Liverpool desperately short of striking options, should Torres lose form or fitness in the title run in.
Dirk Kuyt has plugged the gap on the right wing well, but the man who started his career as a striker looked woeful when recast in the old fashioned number nine role during the 0-0 away draw with struggling Stoke.
Ryan Babel has not impressed much lately and youngsters David Ngog and Nabil El Zhar seem some way short of what is required to win a Premier League or Champions League title.
The loss of Steven Gerrard to injury early during the FA Cup replay at Goodison Park (how costly will that prove?) would have been the perfect opportunity to play Keane in his favoured second striker role, but instead we saw Yossi Benayoun come on.
Perhaps Rafa has seen how well arch rivals Everton have been doing recently (one defeat in 11 matches) playing a 4-6-0 formation following injuries to their gaggle of attackers.
Looking ahead to the Portsmouth match on Saturday, and beyond to the end of the season, I expect Rafa to revert back to his tinkering ways. Torres may well play this weekend, but I expect he’ll be in and out of the side for subsequent games. Protecting him from injury must now be the prime concern for Benitez.
How the Spanish coach must envy the striking riches available over at Manchester United, with Tevez, Berbatov, Ronaldo and Rooney, and Arsenal, who now have Arshavin to complement Adebayor, Van Persie and a nearly fit Eduardo.
PHOTO: Fernando Torres kneels during Liverpool’s FA Cup fourth round replay against Everton, Feb. 4, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble