Benitez lauds attacking tandem
Liverpool duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are fast being accepted as one of the world's finest strike partnerships. The Reds have recorded six successive victories in all competitions ahead of tomorrow's meeting with Fiorentina in the UEFA Champions League.
La Viola climbed to fourth in Serie A on Saturday, thanks to a 1-0 win at Livorno, while Liverpool thrashed Hull City 6-1 with a hat-trick from Torres and one from Gerrard. The pair arrived in Tuscany today with their own mutual admiration in full flow, both claiming the other is "the best in the world".
And the statistics seem to bear them out. The Spain striker has scored 58 goals in 92 Liverpool games since his debut in August 2007, while the England international has 123 in 492. But the true mark of their quality and chemistry comes from the 77 games the pair have played together, when they have plundered 86 goals between them - Gerrard with 39 and Torres 47.
"I wouldn't swap Fernando for any other striker in the world, he's the best," declared Gerrard. And Torres added: "If you play alongside someone like Stevie, who is the best in the world, it can only help you. He is a great passer and can score goals."
Fiorentina will also be aware the pair have a pretty impressive Champions League record. In the 15 games they have played together in the competition, they have scored 15 goals.
Torres arrives in Tuscany as the Premier League's top scorer with eight in eight games, while Gerrard has three. Manager Rafa Benitez had suggested earlier in the campaign that both players had been below their best, but he still claims Torres is "priceless" and Gerrard the best in Europe.
Their response has been emphatic. Since Benitez uttered those words calculated to arouse a response, Torres has hit five in two games, while Gerrard has been outstanding.
"The main thing is that these (two) are good players with quality and intelligence," explained Benitez. "Gerrard is very quick passing the ball and Torres is very quick to run into space.
"If you analyse the goals they have scored together over the past couple of seasons, you would be amazed. The understanding between the pair, with Torres up front and Gerrard in space behind him, has been the real difference for us.
"Playing Steven further forward means he can link well and be a real partner for Torres, he still has to help in midfield but he does not have to go back 40 metres, only 15 metres now, no more. But I believe they can both improve, both get better. They can always produce more."
Torres has taken that to heart and readily admits that Benitez has made him a better player. "From the first day I arrived here I have always been improving, and Rafa has helped in that," he said. "I am a better player now than when I was at Atletico Madrid.
"I hope to continue to keep improving with the manager and my team-mates who can all help me get better and better. Under Rafa I've started to play much more in the middle. I've scored a lot of goals from this position, rather than playing further out towards the wings.
"I like to play between the centre-backs and keep them busy and leave some space for the midfielders. That can make it easier for me to receive a pass when we attack. You have to play to your strengths. I don't know how to play in another position. Striker is the right position for me.
"Maybe I don't have the same qualities as Stevie to play between the lines. I guess it is the same for players like Emmanuel Adebayor or Didier Drogba. If they were to play on the wing or in between or behind the lines, they may not be the same players as when they play as a striker."