Chelsea v Benfica: Time for Fernando Torres to silence the doubters
Could Wednesday night be the night for Fernando Torres? Could this be the game when he finally scores a winning goal for Chelsea?
The stage is set for the £50 million signing to make a decisive intervention. He has improved his form, he is playing better, he is providing goals — not least creating the one that has given Chelsea the advantage going into this Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Benfica.
Torres is expected to start on Wednesday night, ahead of Didier Drogba, who is not fully fit, but he will probably be there, at last, on merit. And he scored against Aston Villa last Saturday, breaking that hoodoo that has affected him for 188 days, 1,035 minutes since his last strike for Chelsea on Sept 24.
The problem is that Torres’s goal, however well taken, came in the 92nd minute of a match that Chelsea were winning 3-2. The pressure was not off but it was not as intense as it might have been had the game been goalless. Imagine him running clear on Wednesday night with Chelsea losing 1-0?
Torres was mobbed by his team-mates at Villa Park and his every meaningful touch is encouraged by the Chelsea supporters. They have certainly not turned on him, but is their response largely through sympathy for a player who has endured such a torrid time and who still has not reached his previous heights?
“It just reflects the spirit that’s flowing through the team,” interim head coach Roberto Di Matteo said on Tuesday when asked about the Villa’s celebrations. “Of course, strikers are expected to score goals. But everybody was happy that we scored that goal and the game was finally over. The happiness was for the player but also for the team for finishing the game off.”