Torres still 'very, very short' of match fitness

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The Independent Football

Liverpool's desire to maintain their strong beginning to the season makes the temptation to give the Spanish striker Fernando Torres his first start since the visit to Eastlands on 5 October a strong one but Rafael Benitez declared him "very, very short" of match readiness yesterday. Such is Liverpool's belief after wins against Chelsea and Manchester United without him that the prospect of Torres being on the substitutes' bench is not unthinkable at Bolton Wanderers this lunchtime.

Torres (pictured) started in the Carling Cup defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday but Benitez – yesterday named Barclays Manager of the Month for October – was not convinced by what he saw and considers the Spaniard two or three weeks away from full fitness. "Clearly he is not 100 per cent fit in terms of his sharpness," Benitez said. "He is a fantastic player but we have [Robbie] Keane and [Dirk] Kuyt playing well so he has to compete."

Benitez bridled at suggestions his strategy in playing first-team players in the Carling Cup defeat against Tottenham provided a contrast with Arsenal, whose team of academy products swept aside Wigan in the same competition on Tuesday. "Do not compare us with Arsenal. They have been paying big, big money for young players for all the time that Arsène Wenger has been there. It is not about the age, it is about quality. Sometimes you have to pay big money for the best young players around, and that is what Arsenal have done," he said.

Paying big money for anyone is out of the question, considering Liverpool's owners financial position, but Benitez – much like Gérard Houllier before him – is of the view that his academy is simply not producing home-grown players like Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. "We have to produce more young players," Benitez said. "It would be good for me if we had five Gerrards and five Carras on the pitch with a good keeper. But we don't produce these players. Some of Arsenal's players have been in the system three or four years."