Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rafa plays down Torres fears

Rafa Benitez believes his close association with Spain coach Vicente del Bosque will ensure the country do not overuse Fernando Torres and risk another injury setback for the Liverpool striker.

Torres made his long-awaited return to first-team action when appearing as a substitute against Manchester City at the weekend and sources in Spain claim he is likely to be included in the country's squad for their friendly against France on March 3.

Only recently, Del Bosque was reported to have said, "the fewer games Fernando plays for his club, the better it will be for us" and Liverpool's top scorer has suffered fitness problems on international duty in the past.

But Benitez knows Del Bosque well from his time at Real Madrid and is confident that both club and country will work in harmony as they seek to get the best out of a striker who has scored 50 goals in 73 league appearances for the Reds.

"Fernando is our player, working with our physios, but we have a good relationship with Fernando Hierro [Spain's technical director], Del Bosque and Javier Minano [the fitness coach]," said Benítez in the Guardian. "When people try to create a mess between Spain and us, remember that Del Bosque was the academy director at Real when I was an academy coach and I was his assistant for the first team. We have a really good relationship.

"His fitness coach was my fitness coach in the Under-18s and the second team. He is my friend. Hierro was in the first team when I was assistant at Real and we had a very good relationship. If I defend my players, it is because I have to, but we have very good communication with Spain."

Torres had not played since the FA Cup defeat to Reading on January 1 due to a knee injury but played 15 minutes of the 0-0 draw at Eastlands. Yossi Benayoun also made his first appearance since the Reading tie and Benitez is pleased to have both players back at his disposal.

"Fernando and Yossi have been important in the past and hopefully both will be important in the future," Benitez said. "Fernando needs to improve his fitness and Yossi has to do the same but at least we have better competition. But Yossi is coming back, Torres is coming back, and hopefully Glen Johnson will come back in the next week."

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