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Sun 24 Feb 2008 07:13 AM

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Benitez warns Torres - more rotation

Rafa Benitez admitted he is still prepared to restTorres despite hid hat-trick against Middlesbrough.

Rafa Benitez admitted that he is still prepared to rest Fernando Torres despite seeing the Spanish striker rescue Liverpool with a hat-trick in Saturday's 3-2 win against Middlesbrough.

Torres, a 26.5million pounds signing from Atletico Madrid, took his tally for this campaign to 21 goals as Liverpool moved back into fourth place in the Premier League.

Middlesbrough, who had French forward Jeremie Aliadiere sent off on 85 minutes for hitting out Javier Mascherano, had made life difficult for the home side, even taking the lead at Anfield through Tuncay Sanli in the first-half.

Torres, 23, proved to be the difference. Yet despite his increasing value to Liverpool, Benitez insisted that he will not burden the striker with too great a workload in the closing weeks of the season.

Benitez said: "Will he play every week? Well, with one game a week it would be easier for me, but I have explained 100 times that I need everybody fit."

"If you are playing three or four games every ten days, and we have West Ham, Newcastle and Inter Milan all coming soon, you need to see how players are and make sure that they are fit."

It is not easy for foreign players in their first season, but Fernando is a player with power and pace and I felt that, in England, those qualities are suited to the league.

"We had two or three targets when we were looking for a striker last summer, some good options, but we decided on Torres because he is young, hungry and his ambition was to play in the Premier League. We also knew that he could be good for us.

"It is really difficult for players to score 20 goals in any season, never mind their first season in the Premiership, but Fernando has done that. His work-rate is good as well, so everything is positive for us.

"There has never been a target for him, other than for him to score goals. I want my strikers to score goals, but they also have to make space for the other strikers and play well."

Liverpool, who beat Inter Milan 2-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday, have struggled to repeat their European heroics in the Premier League this term, so Benitez admitted that this victory was crucial.

He said: "After a Champions League game, the most important thing is always to win.

"After we scored the third goal on the counter-attack, we could have scored more, but the key was to win and we did that."

Boro had been impressive and Stewart Downing's late goal gave them hope of a draw before Aliadiere was dismissed by referee Lee Mason following his clash with Mascherano.

And boss Gareth Southgate admitted that the former Arsenal youngster may now pay a heavy price for his moment of madness.

Southgate said: "Jeremie raised his hands and, although he didn't exactly floor his opponent, you must accept that if you raise your hands, particularly in front of an inexperienced referee, then you are going to get punished."

"It is something that Jeremie will have to learn from. He has done well for us this year, but he will obviously now miss three games through suspension."

"With the great competition that we now have for places up-front, it could be difficult for him to win his place back."

Southgate added: "After a tough game against Inter on Tuesday, I just felt that this game could be an anti-climax for both the Liverpool supporters and players."

"We were very solid and defended well, but we just had a two or three minute spell when the game was turned on its head when Torres scored twice in the first-half."

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