/ 31 July 2008

Torres and Keane pairing excites Benitez

Rafael Benitez believes he has already seen signs that his new strike force of Robbie Keane and Fernando Torres will gel ahead of the start of Liverpool’s coming campaign.

Keane made his Liverpool debut following his £20-million move from Tottenham Hotspur as Benitez’s side played out a scoreless friendly draw with La Liga outfit Villarreal on Wednesday.

The Irishman played just 45 minutes and was withdrawn before Torres came on as a second-half substitute.

But with his side’s first competitive game — a Champions League qualifier — looming in less than two weeks’ time on August 12, Liverpool manager Benitez knows the duo will have to bed in before the serious business of the season gets under way.

Their first taste of joint action could come when Liverpool continue their pre-season preparations with a friendly against Scottish giants Rangers on August 2.

”You could see Robbie was working hard against Villarreal and trying to impress and that was the key,” said Benitez. ”We’ll have enough games left now to play him with Torres.

”In the next game Torres could play maybe 45 minutes, so I hope they can play together. They’ll definitely play together before the start of the season,” the Spaniard added.

Keane, who grew up a Liverpool fan and watched from the Kop as a boy, admitted his first experience of playing for the club was an emotional one.

But he made clear his move from Tottenham was not merely a sentimental one and that his aim was to challenge for the major trophies that eluded him during a six-year spell at White Hart Lane.

His first showing offered plenty of effort but it will be in two weeks’ time that the new player’s impact will be truly tested.

”I was delighted to get that game under my belt,” said the forward. ”I’ve been dreaming about that moment since I was a kid. I enjoyed every moment of it. It has sunk in I’m a Liverpool player — it had to.

”The trip to Spain has been good for me to get to know the lads and I’m just looking forward to this season.”

Liverpool remain unbeaten in their pre-season programme and Benitez declared himself satisfied at his team’s progress, particularly against a side they could face at some stage during the coming Champions League campaign.

He added: ”It was difficult to play against a team that held the ball well, moved the ball well and passed the ball well, especially now when we’re not quite there yet physically.” — AFP