Goalkeeper Pepe Reina must stop his friend and former teammate from scoring in the FA Cup final.
Fernando Torres form worries Reina ahead of Chelsea v Liverpool
Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper, has mixed feelings about facing his compatriot, friend and former teammate Fernando Torres in today's FA Cup final.
"I'm happy for him because he has been showing great form lately," said Reina. "Physically, he looks sharper. I'm glad. It's good for the national team and good for himself. Maybe not so good for us on Saturday."
Torres and Reina speak regularly and the keeper offered advice when the forward was struggling to score.
"I told him he was going to be back," Reina said. "People, and the press in this country especially, were killing him but he has been carrying that weight all his life. He was captain of Atletico Madrid when he was 19 and that gave him a lot of experience. We knew Fernando at Liverpool, we know Fernando, and Fernando is a great player. He will always be a great player."
Explaining why he felt Torres did not initially settle at Chelsea, Reina said: "When you move there is always a question mark. We knew how good he was here but he needed to change city, teammates and the mentality of the team.
"That is a hell of a change. He had to get used to that, but also keep delivering and the expectations when a team has spent £50m on a player are also very high. The pressure was there but I don't think it was only down to Fernando. I don't think Chelsea as a club delivered for him."
"We built a team for Fernando here. Along with Stevie [Gerrard], Fernando was our star player. We had no problems admitting that. He deserved that and he earned that credit. I'm not sure it's like that at Chelsea."
Like the team he plays for, Reina has suffered problems with his own form. "You cannot be at the top of your game all the time, although you do try," he said. "You have ups and downs and certainly we, as a team, haven't been as consistent as we should have been. I had six really good years before this one and people got used to that level from me but sometimes you have a dip in form and you have to accept that.
"Unfortunately, there have been a number of mistakes by me this season. Fortunately, I am able to get over them easily. You have to be strong and prepare properly."
Reina cites a crucial difference between his situation and that of Torres.
"The difference between Fernando and myself is that I have had the confidence of the people at my club all the time. I don't think that has been the case for Fernando at Chelsea. It is much easier to get over your mistakes when you know you have the confidence of your manager and your teammates. With Villas-Boas, especially, I don't think Fernando felt that confidence."
Reina did not play in Tuesday's 1-0 home defeat to Fulham, which saw Anfield's lowest league crowd of the season, 40,106. Cash payment on the turnstiles and empty seats are a rarity for home league games and the flat atmosphere reflected the mood of Liverpool fans who had seen their team win only five of their past 18 games and score 20 goals.
Liverpool are eighth, a place below neighbours Everton, and their lack of progress in the Premier League is causing concern.
"We are not pleased with our league position or with our own league performances," Reina said. "But it would be a positive season if we win two titles. I would accept being in the same league position, or maybe even a place lower, if we won two cups."
Gerrard, the captain, thinks that Liverpool have excelled in the competitions they have had a chance of winning.
"Let's be realistic. At the start of the season our chances of winning the Premier League were quite slim," he said. "We had Manchester City's power to contend with and Chelsea's power, Manchester United are always there, so we were probably fourth or fifth favourites. But we had much better chances of going out and winning the Carling Cup and getting to the FA Cup final and that's what we've done."
Liverpool have an opportunity to win their first FA Cup since 2006. It would not have been said six months ago, but the greatest threat to their hopes is Torres.
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