Champions League

Benitez hails corner maestro Torres

Rafael Benitez & Fernando Torres (REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)
Chelsea coach Rafael Benitez (R) says Fernando Torres is "amazing" at defending corners.
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Rafael Benitez has hailed Chelsea striker Fernando Torres as "amazing" - at defending corners.

Interim Blues boss Benitez attempted to deflect more criticism of Torres's wretched form in front of goal on Tuesday ahead of his side's do-or-die Champions League game against Nordsjaelland on Wednesday night.

Benitez's predecessors tried a similar tactic, such as praising the 28-year-old's workrate or number of assists.

But Torres's current boss resorted to applauding the most mundane of contributions from the man Chelsea paid a record £50million for almost two years ago.

"It's not just scoring goals," Benitez said, discussing his fellow Spaniard's latest performance at West Ham.

"We changed his position in corners, for example.

"If you analyse the corners against, he was amazing.

"Two or three times he's cleared the ball and afterwards was just doing man to man because it's what he had to do.

"So, he's helping the team, in this case to defend.

"As a striker, you like him to score goals.

"Winning is the main thing. Fernando will be an important player for us, is an important player for us."

He added: "We had a training session with finishing and Fernando scored a lot of goals.

"I think he has more confidence and his team-mates know that he's trying very hard and that is the main thing for me."

Benitez also sidestepped questions over whether Torres would ever have a better chance than tonight to break his latest goal drought.

Other than a somewhat fluky goal against Shakhtar Donetsk, the striker has failed to find the net in two months.

Nordsjaelland are easily the weakest opponents Chelsea have faced during that period but Benitez said: "I said to our players before: 'Be careful. They're a team with nothing to lose.'

"When you play with no pressure, it's not easy."

There are suggestions Torres's days at Stamford Bridge could be numbered but the former Liverpool star has insisted he wants to stay.

Juan Mata also defended his team-mate and fellow Spaniard on Tuesday.

"Of course we want to score more," he said.

"If you want to win, you have to score. But not only the strikers score.

"The midfielders and defenders from set-pieces need to score."

Someone needs to score for Chelsea tonight or they will become the first Champions League holders to crash out of the competition before Christmas.

As well as winning their own game, they must also hope Shakhtar Donetsk beat Juventus in the other final Group E clash.

Beating Nordsjaelland would have been a formality six weeks ago but viewed through the prism of two wins in 11 games and a fan revolt against Benitez's appointment, it suddenly looks much less so.

Indeed, the Danish champions arguably may never have a better chance of causing a huge upset.

However, visiting boss Kasper Hjulmand said: "Maybe it couldn't be a worse time. Who knows? We'll see."

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