Football

Hodgson: Torres not certain starter

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Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson will not guarantee striker Fernando Torres a starting place in the Europa League against Utrecht but admits his presence in the squad is something of an insurance policy.

The Spain international has not featured in Europe this season - sitting out the four qualifying matches and one Group K encounter - but travelled to Holland with a virtually-full strength squad. Only Steven Gerrard, who is being rested, and Daniel Agger, who has had an MRI scan on a groin problem which has not responded to treatment, missed the trip.

"The mere fact he is here does not mean he will be in the starting XI," said the 62-year-old.

Hodgson said it should not be assumed Torres would automatically take his place up front but revealed he had learned a harsh lesson after the Carling Cup exit to League Two side Northampton. A week ago the Reds boss gave his first-choice side the night off but then saw a second-string lose on penalties.

Hodgson admitted that, in hindsight, it would have been worth having some quality players in reserve - hence the presence of Torres and most of the first team.

He added: "When you are playing against Northampton and it is 1-1 and you are not playing very well you are desperate to change the game.

"You look around you and realise you have given all the quality players time off to prepare for the game on Saturday and you would like desperately to bring on maybe one of those players - that is one of the things that has affected my thinking."

Torres has scored just once so far this campaign, the winner against West Brom, but had a superb volley ruled out against Sunderland at the weekend and has provided the assist for Liverpool's last four league matches.

Hodgson believes the 26-year-old is now ready to hit top form having put his injury problems behind him.

"He is getting better and better. He has been behind our last four goals in the league," he said. "Those assists will help his confidence. I've said all along for him it is a matter of time and a matter of games and it is nice to see him coming back to the form and the kind of player he is."

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Topics:
Europa League
Sunderland
West Bromwich Albion
Football
League Cup
Premier League
Fernando Torres
Daniel Agger
Steven Gerrard
League Two
Liverpool
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