Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has dismissed speculation star striker Fernando Torres could return to action next week.

Torres has been out since suffering a knee injury in the shock FA Cup loss to Reading last month. The Spaniard is reportedly making good progress in his recovery but Benitez insists any claims he could feature at Manchester City a week on Sunday are premature.

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Benitez told the club's website, www.liverpoolfc.tv: "I think it will be too early. He is training with the physios and the fitness coach, but he's still not involved with the team. We will see next week how he progresses."

Torres, 25, is Liverpool's top goalscorer with 12 this season despite being restricted to 21 appearances by injuries.

A niggling groin problem curtailed his involvement earlier in the campaign.

Benitez is hoping that vice captain Jamie Carragher will be fit to feature in the Barclays Premier League clash at Eastlands.

The veteran defender suffered an adductor injury in the midweek defeat at Arsenal and is unlikely to feature in the Europa League tie against Unirea Urziceni next Thursday.

With Sotirios Kyrgiakos suspended for the next two Premier League games and Glen Johnson still out, Liverpool could be facing a defensive crisis.

Benitez said of Carragher: "I am not sure if he will be available for Thursday against Unirea, but maybe he will have a chance against City."

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Fernando Torres
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