Wigan words and testing times as Torres’ injury bites?

Is there ever a time to get an injury to a key player?

Probably not but it now seems that we will be without Fernando Torres for the games against Wigan and Chelsea in Premiership and the Atletico the Champions League tie which is sandwiched in-between.

Believe it or not this the third injury Torres has picked up whilst away with Spain. Bad luck or no coincidence? What is worrying is that it’s his hamstring again. The more injuries he gets to this part of his body perhaps the more serious, and long term, it becomes? Rafa, perhaps understandably, went into rant mode suggesting a radical rethink of the international tournament qualifying group format.

“There are too many international games and the demands on the players are too much. Someone needs to analyse this situation because it is putting the players at risk of injury. Maybe the answer is for there to be a two tier qualifying system because there are too many games in the qualifiers for the World Cup and the European Championships which are not competitive but which still place great demands on the players.”

It’s an interesting point. When England were trying to qualify for the1974 World there were only two other teams in their qualifying group, Wales and Poland, however, the map of Europe is different now. That’s it, we can blame Torres’ injury on the collapse of Communism!

It’s perhaps a little extreme to suggest such changes and anyway who is to say Torres or any other player wouldn’t get injured in one of the games under the new format, or at any time? Nonetheless one can fully understand Rafa’s frustration, and it is also annoying because we were doing so well.

Of course it is wrong to view Liverpool’s future via the fortunes of one man. We are regularly accused of being over reliant on players such as Torres and Gerrard so now is the time to prove the naysayers wrong once more. If we are to maintain our recent form then we need to show we have strength in depth and that when injuries occur the replacements can fill in effectively? Above all we need to be positive, remember we beat The Mancs without Torres AND Gerrard so why shouldn’t we do well? Nonetheless it’s still a bugger isn’t it? And as if to add insult to er…. injury Ryan Babel also injured his ankle playing for the Dutch against Norway.

The irony is that Torres will now miss the Champions League game against his old club. Thankfully, UEFA have seen sense, listened to pleas on behalf of Liverpool fans who have made travelling arrangements, and delayed Atletico’s punishment until after Wednesday.

However, before that we have to get on with the job of trying to beat Wigan at Anfield this afternoon, something with we failed to do last season. The 1-1 draw effectively snuffed out any lingering Championship hopes we had last season so let’s hope we can banish the bad memories of that game?

Wigan look to be a better side than they were then. Heskey appears to be having resurgence, as seen in his England recall and rumoured return to us this summer, I’ll believe it when I see it! Amr Zaki looks a good prospect, and has been likened to a centre forward in the old fashioned classic mould although I think he’s drawn the line at Breelcream, hob nail boots and travelling to the game on his bike! If he turns in the performance he did against Manchester City, when he gave Mica Richards and Richard Dunne a torrid time, Carragher and Agger/Hyypia* (*delete as appropriate) will be in for a busy afternoon.

Team wise Rafa has a number of options. He will obviously need to replace the injured Skrtel. Does he go with Sami’s experience or risk Agger who might still be a bit rusty after injury? Who will partner Robbie Keane up front or will it be five in midfield incorporating Gerrard in a more offensive role? It’s Rafa so who knows.

Wigan’s results have been up and down, good wins against Hull (5-0) and Man City (2-1) punctuated with a number of defeats some of which, if Steve Bruce’s post match chats on Match of the Day are anything to go by, deserved more. I think they will give us a hard time but nonetheless, even without Torres, we appear to be proving tough when the going gets tough so I expect three points. 2-1.

Enjoy your weekend.

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