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Torres set to sit out Reds' trip to Middlesbrough

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has revealed Fernando Torres is almost certain to miss Saturday's trip to Middlesbrough.

The striker suffered an ankle injury against Real Madrid early this week and was withdrawn on the hour. It will leave the manager short on striking options for the game against the struggling Teessiders as they look to keep their Premier League title hopes alive.

With Manchester United not in action due to the Carling Cup final it is imperative that Benitez does not had a further advantage to their rivals, and he will be aided by the return of Steven Gerrard. The skipper came on at the end of the game in the Bernabeu after a hamstring injury and should be able to start at the Riverside.

Torres is likely to also miss the home game against Sunderland though Liverpool then have a blank weekend due to the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Benitez revealed: "I do not expect Fernando to play at Middlesbrough.

"He picked up an ankle injury in the first minute of our win in the Bernabeu and he struggled on until we replaced him in the second half with Ryan Babel's pace and fresh legs. Torres was increasingly uncomfortable.

"However, I do expect him to be back for the second leg against Real in a fortnight.

"And there is a good chance that Steven Gerrard will be able to play at Middlesbrough. We were not prepared to take the risk on his hamstring injury until those final minutes in Madrid.''

Benitez added: "The title is harder after we were held to a draw by Manchester City on Sunday. But let us wait to see the situation after our next two games.

"We have a trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday and then Sunderland are at Anfield next Tuesday. If we can win both of those games, it will really boost us.

"After that we have a week without a game because of the next round of the FA Cup, before we play Real Madrid at home (on March 10).

"Let's see where we are by then because we then go to Old Trafford, a game we know we must win.''

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