Rafa refusing to rush Torres

Rafa refusing to rush Torres

Published Feb. 24, 2010 3:52 p.m. ET

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is in no hurry to rush Fernando Torres back into action against Unirea Urziceni in the Europa League on Thursday.

The Spain international made his long-awaited comeback from a knee operation after five weeks out in a 15-minute substitute appearance in Sunday's goalless draw at Manchester City.

But, with their Premier League campaign of much more importance than their European exploits - where they hold a 1-0 lead from last week's first leg at Anfield - Benitez is taking a cautious approach with the 25-year-old.

Torres is likely to be on the bench on Thursday night as he is eased back into the action, with a view to possibly starting at home to Blackburn on Sunday.

"We knew we could use him against City. The idea was for 15-20 minutes but still he is not ready," said Benitez.

"He needs match fitness and has to play and train, and we will see later on how he is coming along.

"He was doing very well with the physios and fitness coach. He is really happy.

"We decided to put him in the squad (against City) because he was training well last Friday. Now he can carry on and progress. He will be ready soon.

"We have to be careful because it has been a long time. Now it is a question of one step at a time.

"You cannot push him too hard because you could lose the player and it is not necessary.

"We will see how he progresses and we will decide each day.

"He could feature against Unirea. We have to see him training and afterwards see how he is feeling and then we will decide - but he will not start."

Benitez's squad is now almost at full fitness as, with David Ngog having recovered from an ankle injury that kept him out at Eastlands, only defender Glen Johnson remains on the sidelines.

However, there is encouraging news about the England right-back, who Benitez believes could begin full training by the end of this week having been out with a knee problem since the victory over Aston Villa at the end of December.

"Johnson is very close. I think next week he will be training with the team, or maybe at the end of the week, but it will be the same situation we have with Torres," said the Liverpool manager.

"He will need time and we will introduce him little by little."

After a frustrating tie against Unirea at Anfield - when David Ngog scored the only goal - Benitez hopes the fact the hosts have to score will mean his side have more openings.

"We have to believe that the away leg will be different because they will have to attack and that will leave more spaces, and maybe we can create more clear chances," said the Spaniard.

"If they have to attack, they have to be higher (up the field) and the game will be totally different.

"The main thing now is that we know them. It will not be a surprise the next game and we have to be ready. We have to think about attack."

Despite their opponents' massed defensive ranks a week ago, Benitez knows Liverpool have to do better to break down sides - which they failed to do against City on Sunday - instead of relying on the new-found defensive solidity.

"We have to do better, or at least we have to score an early goal and the game will maybe be more open," he added.

"If you play in the Champions League or Europa League - in a knockout competition - you can see a clean sheet is very important and not to concede away is the main thing because then you can manage at home."