Fernando Torres sidelined for six weeks
Liverpool's hopes of salvaging a fourth-place finish from what has become a truly dismal season have been undermined by the news that striker Fernando Torres will be sidelined for six weeks, while captain Steven Gerrard is out for a fortnight and midfielder Yossi Benayoun misses up to four weeks.
Liverpool's season slumped to new depths on Wednesday night when the club were eliminated by Reading in the third round of the FA Cup and the game at Anfield came at some cost to manager Rafael Benitez as he seeks to fulfil his "guarantee" that the club will finish in the top four this season.
Torres was substituted in the first half at Anfield and scans have revealed that the striker will require knee surgery to repair torn cartilage. The Spaniard, who has scored 12 goals in 15 Premier League appearances this season, will definitely miss, amongst other fixtures, the upcoming games against local rivals Everton, on February 6, and Arsenal four days later.
He is also likely to miss out when Liverpool get their Europa League campaign underway with a two-legged fixture against Unirea Urziceni on February 18 and 25.
To compound Benitez's misery, he will also be without Gerrard, who was substituted at half-time against Reading, and fellow midfielder Benayoun for a period of time.
"Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres both underwent scans earlier today after coming off in the FA Cup tie against Reading," read a club statement.
"Steven has a hamstring strain and will be out for a fortnight, while Fernando has torn a cartilage in his right knee. The injury will require surgery and he is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.
"Yossi Benayoun also suffered a fractured rib in the game and will be unavailable for between three and four weeks."