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Feb 8, 2009

Striker Torres hails 'irreplaceable' Gerrard

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres insists his team-mates have to look at the positives if they are to drag themselves out of their recent blip.

The Reds led the Barclays Premier League table for most of the first half of the season but, after failing to win a league game in January, have been usurped by Manchester United.

Rafael Benitez's men were knocked out of the FA Cup by bitter rivals Everton midweek and needed a stoppage-time goal from Torres to secure a 3-2 win at struggling Portsmouth yesterday.

But the Spain striker has refuted suggestions Liverpool's season is in freefall.

"We began very well and at the moment we're going through a period which isn't the best,'' he told Spanish sports daily AS. "But we're not bad, maybe it's just that we're stifled by lesser teams who are happy with a draw.

"We are better against the big teams and we have to show that against Real Madrid.

"We're getting back players that have been absent with injury like me.

"It all depends on how you look at things.

"You can be pessimistic and think that we have been knocked out of the Cup and that it was tough for us to win, or you can think positively, which is what I do, and see that we are fighting for the league, that we're in the last 16 of the Champions League, that on the whole we are better than previous years.

"That's what I think.''

Liverpool face Real Madrid in a mouthwatering Champions League last-16 tie.

Torres, who admits his team fare better in cup competitions than the league, is looking forward to the clash.

"It is the most attractive tie of the Champions League,'' said the former Atletico Madrid striker. "One of the teams with the best history in Europe against one with the greatest in England and only one can remain in the competition.

"For me it's not just another game and that's not just for my Atletico past: it is an extra motivation for anyone to face Madrid in Europe.

"I have never won in the Bernabeu and with all the respect that I deserve and they have for us, I really want go and look like equals against Real.

"There is no favourite, apart from maybe each team at home. That the second leg is at our place might be an advantage...but that doesn't always prove true.

"I am well aware that they will be very dangerous in the Champions League. They always have been.

"But in cup games, and the other day is the exception that proves the rule, we are like a fish in water.

"The league is harder because there are clubs who have more money and you can tell that.''

A key factor in whether Liverpool will progress is if Steven Gerrard returns from his hamstring injury in time - and Torres knows the team are a very different force without their captain.

"He is irreplaceable,'' added the Euro 2008 winner. "Every great team has a model player, one whose home is there, one who stays there for life.

"People come and people go and he always stays. Here that's Gerrard. Liverpool is him and 10 others. He is everything for us.

"They're saying he'll be out for three weeks, let's hope it's less. I hope and would love his lay-off to be shorter.''

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