LIVERPOOL manager Roy Hodgson hopes a fully-refreshed Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard will provide the spearhead for victory against Manchester United at Old Trafford tomorrow.
The pair were left out of last night’s Europa League 4-1 win over Steaua Bucharest along with a number of first-choice players as Hodgson made eight changes in an attempt to give his side the best chance at Old Trafford.
Hodgson admits the match between the two north-west rivals has come earlier in the season than he would have wished but, by giving his star players maximum rest, the 62-year-old is confident they can put in a good performance.
Most of the focus will be on Torres after his display in last Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Birmingham was widely criticised. The Spain striker has enjoyed a fruitful time at Old Trafford in the past, scoring on his last three visits, terrorising centre-back Nemanja Vidic on a number of occasions.
However, Hodgson does not read too much into past results — which may be a good thing, as his record against United with Fulham was not that good. “I give it no credence, none at all,” said Hodgson, in response to Torres’ record against United.
“But let’s hope on Sunday we see a great performance from him. He is Fernando Torres — he is going to have bad games and wonder games.
“But like all good players, he will have games where people will say ‘We expected more of you, we thought you could have done better’ and that was probably the case against Birmingham.
“It will be the case again on many occasions but he is a very good player and we are going to get an awful lot of benefit from his services because good players remain good players.”
Hodgson admits he has no idea whether his decision to rest key players yesterday will pay off.
“I did it once at Fulham last season when I rested virtually the whole team when we went to CSKA Sofia with a reserve team,” he said. “We came back and got beat by Wolves and I didn’t think we looked very fresh or sharp.
“But you know you can’t burn out players, playing three matches a week, week after week, especially when some of those matches are after international trips. Don’t forget Torres only came back from Argentina on Thursday to play on Sunday last week.
“You have to make decisions whereby you say ‘I think it will be in this player’s interest to rest’ and ‘This player will be fresher and better equipped to play on Sunday if he misses Thursday’s game’.
“Now whether that actually happens or not, who knows? You make decisions on the basis of what should happen but it doesn’t always happen.”
Matches against United are always used as a barometer of how good the current Liverpool side are, considering they have not won a league title since 1990 allowing their arch-rivals to draw level with their record tally of 18. Hodgson, though, won’t judge his squad on the outcome of one game.
“It is a difficult encounter always but it is a game which has thrilled people throughout the years and let’s hope it is no different at the weekend,” he said.
“The result will be very important. But it is going to be a long haul.
“Games of this magnitude coming so early in our time here are not ideal but I’m hoping we will give it our best shot and see what the game brings.”
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