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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Torres dilemma for Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez must decide whether to risk his star striker Fernando Torres at Fulham on Saturday.

Torres is one goal away from equalling the record for most goals scored by an overseas player in his debut Premier League season.

But Benitez is certainly considering resting a host of players ahead of next week's Champions League semi-final.

Last term Benitez was in an almost identical position going into the away trip to Fulham, and managed to upset former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock with his team selection at Craven Cottage.

And this season it is Bolton's Gary Megson who has already called for Benitez to field his strongest side against their relegation rivals.

Benitez, of course, will be already planning for next Tuesday's semi-final first leg against Chelsea at Anfield, and that priority could well see him rest some senior men against the Cottagers.

The Spaniard was non-committal on the issue, but it must not be forgotten how single-minded Benitez was then, using veteran Robbie Fowler, along with youngsters Gabriel Paletta and Emiliano Insua in the match.

He says: 'OK, we will think about Chelsea but for us to be in the top four is really important, and we will have enough energy to play against Chelsea on Tuesday.

'Sometimes it's not easy for players to concentrate with a Champions League semi-final so near, but they know how important it is to finish in the top four so hopefully they will be focused.

'They will be concentrated and then hopefully we can talk about two victories in both games.'

Last season Liverpool went to Fulham four days after they had beaten Chelsea at Anfield in the Champions League semi-final. This time it is three days before their first leg clash.

Then Fulham won 1-0, a victory that, eventually, saved them from the drop. They will be hell-bent on repeating that result this time, one which enraged Warnock, with the Blades going down by just one point from the west Londoners.

So whether Torres gets the chance to continue his record-breaking season is open to debate.

The record of 23 is currently held by Dutchman Ruud Van Nistelrooy who achieved his total for Manchester United in 2001-02.

He played 32 times that season and scored four from the penalty spot while Torres has appeared on 31 occasions this season without the help of spot-kicks.