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Torres to start, Gerrard not fit for Fulham game

Liverpool's Fernando Torres looks set to make his first Anfield start for almost three weeks against Fulham, but Steven Gerrard will miss out with a groin injury.

Torres was hit by a hamstring problem on international duty in September, while Gerrard sustained his injury at Bolton last weekend.

It is clear that sharp words from boss Rafael Benitez had some effect on the Spain management team this week, with Torres used only for the final 31 minutes of the 3-0 win over Chile, while the manager also clashed with Fabio Capello over Gerrard.

Benitez had said before the game: "I do not like the fact that Fernando has been called up after being out injured for so long, but there is nothing I can do about it.

"But we have spoken to the Spanish staff and asked them to protect him."

Benitez will check on the fitness of the 13 Liverpool players away on international duty this week, but it is expected that Torres will start against the Londoners, having recovered from his hamstring problem.

Gerrard, though, will miss out. He withdrew from the England squad this week with a muscle tear, and Benitez was keen to play down suggestions that he was unhappy with the England coach.

Benitez said: ''It is simple. He is not fit and he cannot play. Maybe he'll be ready for Marseille. We know the rules and respect them. But I prefer now not to think of this because there are no more internationals for a while.

''But we were right. Gerrard cannot play, so we were right when we said he was injured. It is too soon to say how long Steven will be out. But if we have an extra day of treatment, maybe he will be ready for the Champions League.''

On his relationship with the England manager, Benitez was diplomatic in the extreme.

He said: ''There's no problem between me and Fabio Capello, I am not unhappy with him. But the best news now is that there are no internationals until March. I am happy with that situation, and happy to be able to concentrate on my team.

''Were we unhappy that Steven had to go to the England hotel? All I can say is that he is not fit and will not play for us against Fulham. That is the only thing important for me. We cannot change the situation and Steven is not available, that's it.''

And Benitez's respect for Gerrard is clear, with him adding: ''Everyone can see how good he is on the pitch. As a person he is a nice lad, you can see his commitment to the club. Everything is positive and hopefully he can win more trophies.

''Maybe he will be here for another 10 years, certainly five or six. It is not easy to stay with one club. Life in general is very different than before, clubs can offer a lot of money. I am really pleased to have kept Gerrard here, and maybe he will one day be the manager to replace me.

''There are more important things than money in Steven's mind. He has great passion for the club, he loves the club and the city.

''That is the key as far as he is concerned, and hopefully he will take over from me.''

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