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Fernando Torres ready to scrap for Liverpool's right to be in final


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FERNANDO TORRES has sent an ominous message to the Chelsea tough men looking to cut him out of tomorrow’s semi-final second leg – ‘I’m ready for a scrap’.


John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho know they stand one clean sheet away from a European Cup final – something Chelsea have been denied by Liverpool in two of the previous three years.


And they know keeping Torres quiet, as they did in the first leg at Anfield which finished 1-1 last Tuesday, will be key to ensuring they don’t suffer a hat-trick of semi-final heartbreak.


The defensive duo have been central to Chelsea’s remarkable home record, which has seen them lose only once in four years – to Barcelona in the Champions League in 2006.


A result which hints at the problems the Londoners, whose only success on the Continent was the 1971 Cup Winners Cup win, have when the latter stages of this competition tug at the frayed nerve ends.


And Torres is confident he can cause Chelsea even more anxiety tomorrow – because whatever they have planned in reducing his impact, it will be nothing compared to the environment he grew up in when learning the game the hard way at Atletico Madrid.


In fact, the 24-year-old, sees it as an ‘honour’ when Terry and Carvalho target him for a physical battle.


“English football is physical but reasonably honest in contrast to La Liga, where it is more vicious,” said Torres.


“You get studs-first challenges and elbowings off the ball. But all defenders in England are tough, the good ones and the less gifted likewise. It must be written in their contracts!


“Now I’ve taken that on board I’ve got to go out and earn my money. I am paid to deal with this, and I am not scared of a scrap so long as it is fair.


I have wanted to play against guys like John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho for a long time, and they do me an honour by giving me a tough time.


“Now I’m going to try to respond to them by getting a couple of goals against Chelsea.


“Everybody dreams about playing in the Champions League, and in the space of a few months I have gone from watching it on TV to having a part in it and I already have plenty of memories.


“My goal at the San Siro when we beat Inter Milan 1-0, the 4-0 win over Marseille, and my goal in the 4-2 win over Arsenal – now it is the turn of Chelsea,” he added.


It’s the type of confidence and fearlessness that has helped Torres score 30 goals in a remarkable debut season in English football.


But one of the other reasons he is shrugging off the prospect of a punishing workout from the Chelsea defence is because that will be ballet-dancing compared to what a certain other Spaniard has in store for him. Manager Rafael Benitez is renowned for his attention to detail, something which comes as no surprise to Torres, having witnessed his title-winning achievements with Valencia in their homeland.


And as that obsessive nature tends to come to the fore with most force during the latter stages of the Champions League, Torres is expecting no let-up in his manager’s quest for perfection in the build-up to another potentially thrilling climax to the campaign.


He added: “(Rafa) calculates everything, including runs and flights of the ball, and studies it on his computer.


“If he tells you to stand five feet from the penalty spot, it’s not in your best interests to be six feet from it!


“He’ll show you that the extra distance makes the difference between a goal and a missed chance – and it has worked for me.


“The proof for me is I had never scored a club hat-trick in my life before joining Liverpool, but I’ve since got three, against Reading, Middlesbrough and West Ham.


“Rafa explained everything to me before I even signed – how we would play, and what our aims were. He even gave me a work schedule in advance.


“He has great powers of seduction, and makes crazy demands on us. At the end of training, when we are all tired, he can still make us repeat routines 20 or 30 times.


“Nobody is sure of his first-team place at Liverpool. Rafa is merciless, and anyone who wants to play in matches has to earn the right in training.


“It is different to Spain, where only an earthquake can change the pecking order at a club.


“You soon learn the Liverpool way of doing things. If you train like an amateur you end up dropped to the bench for the next game,” he added.


No room for amateurs tomorrow night – but if Torres can destroy one of the most professional outfits in the game, the pecking order of European achievement will stay well and truly in tact.


And the tremors of that particular earthquake will rumble all the way to Moscow on May 21.


So does Torres.

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