Reports on Fernando Torres' return, a rumored exit for Fabio Aurelio, and more Rafa-to-Juve talk.
Slow week so far, anyone?
As I mentioned Monday, one of the unfortunate revelations prior to Sunday's match with Fulham was the trouble with Fernando Torres' knee. The injury was deemed serious enough that he traveled to Spain to meet with Dr. Ramon Cugat, who repaired the striker's knee back in January. Apparently the prognosis is good, with the doctor calling simply for rest, and Torres is back on Merseyside. Tentatively, Torres should be back in time for the semi-final match with former club Atletico Madrid, which means he would miss Monday's encounter with West Ham. I think we've all accepted the collective placing of the eggs in the Europa League basket, so taking a risk on Monday doesn't seem worth it. Plus, seeing him return to face the club he started his career with is one of the more intriguing storylines of the season---it's a shame Maxi is cup-tied and can't feature, as I'm sure he'd have enjoyed the chance as well. Regardless, the fitness of Fernando Torres continues to worry, but there's reason for optimism.
The fitness of Fabio Aurelio, however, doesn't necessarily call for the same optimism, although there were reports that he might be back sooner than expected. Not that any of us actually know when that was. But the big news here is that Olympiacos has apparently made their interest known, and the Greek club hope to pluck the left back away from Liverpool in the summer. I've read in a few different places that he was not in the running for a contract renewal, but this is the first time I've seen another club attached. Aurelio has always been a bit of an enigma during his time with the club---he's deadly from set pieces and is probably one of the more intelligent players in the squad, but he's inconsistent and rarely fit. He was versatile enough to deputize in midfield and on the left flank, but hasn't been around enough this year to make any sort of impact. Fully fit, I think he pushes Emiliano Insua for a starting spot, but with the young Argetine gaining in experience, I don't know that Aurelio is a great fit with Liverpool in the coming years. Add his struggles with fitness into the mix, and it would make a world of sense that Liverpool wouldn't pursue a renewal.
Another rumored departure that's picked up again is that of Rafa Benitez--you'll remember that this was a big story around the start of the new year. It seems that Juventus are quite interested in the services of Benitez, and they've gone so far as to offer him a "ten-day deadline" for the post. As with so many of these stories, there's not actually anything to suggest that this has occurred in reality---the linked article includes only this quote from Rafa's agent:
"I haven't met with Juventus, I was here in Madrid. I reaffirm that Benitez has a four-year deal with Liverpool so he remains there. But in the coming months I don't know what will happen."
If that last sentence doesn't scream "ten-day deadline" I don't know what does. In truth, though, I could see a scenario in which Rafa does have a desire to leave the club---being forced to sell top players, not getting the investment or funding for transfers, panic button apocalypse etc. etc. That doesn't mean it'll happen within ten days, but it's certainly within the realm of possibility.
That does it for news that's not-quite-worth-posting-but-I-felt-obligated-to-anyway. Obviously tomorrow is a big day for the club and its supporters, and I'll be back with a post on a morning that marks the 21st anniversary of that day at Hillsborough. Last year the official website ran the memorial service at Anfield live, and I'm sure they have similar plans for this season. In the meantime they've posted the observation of a minute of silence on Sunday along with interviews and a lantern-lighting ceremony.