Torres ready for test of Liverpool`s credentials
London: Fernando Torres admits Liverpool face an early test of their Premier League title credentials in Sunday`s season opener at Tottenham.
Rafael Benitez`s side are expected to mount a strong bid to end Manchester United`s three-year reign as champions this term, but Torres knows the Reds must win tricky matches like this weekend`s trip to White Hart Lane if they are to improve on last season`s second place finish.
Despite taking maximum points from four matches with United and Chelsea last term, Liverpool still ended up four points behind Sir Alex Ferguson`s team.
Their Achilles heel was an inability to grind out victories against lesser opposition when either Torres or captain Steven Gerrard were injured.
With Gerrard a doubt for the Tottenham match with an ankle problem, Liverpool could get a chance to show they can cope without their talismanic leader.
Torres, who signed a new contract improving his wages to over 100,000 pounds a week on Friday, said: "We don`t need to improve a lot on last season to win the title.”
"There is only a slight improvement needed to give the fans and players the title they have wanted for so many years now.”
"This is the best Liverpool team there has been in years. That is what many of the experienced players are saying. And now is our time. Second-best is just not going to cut it with me any more."
Liverpool`s hopes of laying down an early marker in the title race haven`t been helped by injuries to centre-backs Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel.
Benitez hopes Skrtel and Carragher will be able to start on Sunday, but new signing Alberto Aquilani, brought in to replace Xabi Alonso after the Spain midfielder`s switch to Real Madrid, is out for several weeks after ankle surgery.
When all his walking wounded are fit, Benitez believes Liverpool will be right in the title mix again and he said: "We had 86 points last season to finish second, and we have more or less the same squad, so maybe we can do the same again or better.”
"As for our title chances, the players know we were very close last season and they want to improve. We know what this team can achieve and they will be ready."
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is convinced Liverpool have as good a chance as anyone of taking advantage if United stumble.
"Liverpool are a terrific side. Last year they were outstanding. Only losing two games but not winning the league was an amazing statistic," Redknapp said.
"They`ll be there this year pushing for the championship, along with Manchester United and Chelsea and Arsenal. It`s a big test to see what we are made of."
Redknapp must decide whether to hand Peter Crouch a debut alongside Jermain Defoe or Robbie Keane, but he could be without Jermaine Jenas, who has a calf problem, while defenders Gareth Bale, Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson are all sidelined.
Cameroon defender Sebastien Bassong, who joined from Newcastle for eight million pounds last week, is available after clarification of his suspension from last season.
"When we played Newcastle last year I spoke to Alan Shearer after the game," Redknapp said. "He said `if I stay at the club there is no way Bassong will ever leave`.”
"Alan didn`t get the job and he (Bassong) was the first person we went for. He`s a young player with a fantastic future."
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