Benitez dismisses Torres return talk

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

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.

Benitez told the club’s website, “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.”

Johnson, meanwhile, is planning to return to training within a month after six weeks out with a knee injury.

The England international tore a medial ligament at Aston Villa in December.

The 25-year-old, signed for £18m from Portsmouth last summer, is now jogging again and feels he is making good progress.

Johnson said: “I’m definitely over the worst of it now and I’m about two or three weeks away from training, so I’m getting there.

“It’s been like groundhog day – I’ve been doing the same things, working in the gym and doing stability work.

“Every day has been the same for the last two weeks, but now I’ve started to run, things can change.

“I don’t expect to walk back into the side and play, but I am doing everything I can to be in the best shape possible. It’s been frustrating. The worst thing for a footballer is being injured, but now I’m looking forward.”

Johnson is relieved to be so close to making a comeback, as he admits he initially feared the injury, sustained in a challenge with Gabriel Agbonlahor, was a lot worse.

He added: “It was strange. When I did it, it wasn’t much of a tackle, it was more the way the lad fell on me.

“I heard something snap in my knee, so I knew it wasn’t good but I wasn’t sure how bad it would be at the time.

“The following morning, it was thought it could have been my cruciate ligament, so it was good that it wasn’t.”

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