Torres is 'optimistic' over injury

Striker back in Liverpool nursing knee injury in bid to be fit for Europa League
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The Independent Online

Fernando Torres will return to Liverpool's Melwood training ground tomorrow where his injured right knee will continue to be assessed. The Spain international travelled to Barcelona at the weekend to see specialist Dr Ramon Cugat, the surgeon who in January performed the operation on the torn meniscus which kept him out for a month.

With Cugat having said that rest should allow Torres to feature next week, manager Rafael Benitez and his medical staff will have to decide whether their star striker will be fit enough to face West Ham on Monday.

Torres is desperate to face former club Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final in the Spanish capital on Thursday and so he – and Benitez– may consider the Hammers game too much of a risk.

Spain are certainly keeping a keen eye on developments with the World Cup less than two months away. "Until the rest period imposed by the doctor has passed, we will not know the extent of the injury," said the Spanish Football Federation's sporting director Fernando Hierro.

"I talk to Torres every day and he is optimistic. I am too. Hopefully the problem is due to a knock, because it reduces the risk."

Torres missed the Reds' last game – a dour 0-0 home draw with Fulham on Sunday – and his absence was reflected in his side's bluntness up front.

Another of Liverpool's injury worries Fabio Aurelio could be set for a summer departure from Anfield after the Greek side Olympiacos expressed an interest in signing the Brazilian.

The 30-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and his bad luck with injuries – he has made just 13 starts and 10 substitute appearances this season and is still sidelined by a thigh strain sustained at the end of February – could mean an end to his stay on Merseyside.

Benitez has been frustrated by Aurelio's problems as it has meant the less experienced Emiliano Insua has had to play the majority of matches with no other cover on the left side of defence.

Should Aurelio leave in the summer it would Benitez again looking for another left-back, having sold mis-fit Andrea Dossena in January after just 18 disappointing months at the club.

The future of Benitez himself has come to the fore again with Juventus, who made him their number one managerial target to take over from caretaker boss Alberto Zaccheroni three months ago, reportedly giving the Spaniard 10 days to express an interest in moving to Turin.

Benitez distanced himself from the Italian club at the time and despite disappointing Premier League and Champions League campaigns, winning the Europa League remains a possibility. The Spaniard may view Juventus as an equally tough task as the one he faces at Anfield. Struggling in the league, the twice champions of Europe stumbled out of Europe after a humiliating 4-1 beating by Fulham.

In addition, the prospect of new owners at Liverpool, or at least an improved summer transfer budget, will have been received positively by the Spaniard who has four years left to run on a long-term contract he only signed just over 12 months ago.

Despite the new speculation, Benitez's agent Manuel Garcia Quilon has denied meeting with officials from the Italian club. "I haven't met with Juventus, I was here in Madrid," Quilon said. "I reaffirm that Benitez has a four-year deal with Liverpool so he remains there.

"But in the coming months I don't know what will happen."

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