Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has admitted that the absence of Fernando Torres has left a defining mark on this season's campaign.
The Spanish striker has been absent for large chunks of the season, with his injury problems being pointed too as a reason for Liverpool's demise in the first stage of the Champions League.
Torres could still play a pivotal role in European success for the Reds this season though, watching his side earn a hard-fought 1-0 victory in the Europa League last 32 against Unirea Urzinceni last night.
The game in many ways emphasised the problems the Anfield side have faced this season, with Liverpool dominating from the start without showing the killer edge that 'El Nino' provides.
“It will cost every team if they lose their top scorer, their striker, for a lot of games," said Benitez.
“A good player, at his best moment can be a massive difference.”
The Reds are far from a one-man team, with Gerrard, Kuyt and Mascherano three obvious names in a team full of international stars. It is more that they are a different animal without the threat of their leading marksman, a far less potent and dangerous beast.
Looking at Manchester United as an example, their plight could arguably be the same without talisman Wayne Rooney in the ranks.
The fact that they have greater depth in the forward positions at Old Trafford is a point that Benitez would struggle to argue against, but few could deny that the England striker is making a massive difference for the current Premier League champions.
"When you talk about a good player like Rooney, at his best moment he can be a massive difference, though only for a good team," said the Spaniard.
"One player, without good team-mates around them, it would be impossible."
This leads to another problem that the Reds have faced this season, with a build up of injuries in the middle of the campaign leaving the Reds completely off the pace in the league as well as out of all domestic competitions.
"We lost a lot of players at the same time, players with quality – Agger, Johnson, Yossi, Gerrard, Torres – all the same time. it is difficult to manage without players, ones with quality and just in terms of numbers. It is even more difficult if you lose your striker, who can be such a difference."
It appears that the club are over the injury-worst, with Benayoun expected to return this weekend for the clash with Manchester City. Should Liverpool win on Sunday, then they take pole position in the race for fourth place and the Champions League next season, a must in many opinions for the future of Benitez at Anfield.
To secure that fourth place though, the Reds will need a successful run-in, something that could coincide with the return of Torres. An early recovery from knee surgery provides a ray of light to the Liverpool cause, and the Spanish superstar could be back on February 28th for the clash with Blackburn.
Whilst his injury has so far defined a forgettable season for the Reds, his return could yet prove to be the most important moment of the season for Liverpool. Europa League glory and a solid run-in that leads to fourth place could yet create a memorable season if number nine can quickly hit form on Merseyside.
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