Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has warned Fernando Torres that he is ready to leave the Spain striker on the bench if it helps his team's title challenge.
Benitez is unhappy with Torres's slow return from a hamstring injury and his disappointing display in last week's League Cup defeat at Tottenham.
Torres had been chastised by Benitez for a “bad” display at White Hart Lane, and he was given only a 30-minute substitute appearance during Liverpool's 2-0 win at Bolton on Saturday.
Liverpool, who are behind Premier League leaders Chelsea on goal difference, were already ahead by the time Torres came on to set up Steven Gerrard's second goal and Benitez has no intention of restoring last season's top scorer to his starting line-up just because he is a star player.
“The players have to compete for their positions in the side, be it Torres or anyone else,” Benitez said.
“Torres has to improve, if he does and he is fit then I will decide what to do, although I expect to be criticised.
“I did not have to explain to Fernando why he was not playing, it was very clear. The team had been playing well and he has to compete for his position.
“He played well when he came on, but then other players who come on as substitute also did well, not just him.
“That is the key if you want to have a winning mentality and a winning squad.”
Benitez may be unhappy with Torres but he is still keen to ensure the striker returns fully fit from international duty this week.
Torres will join up with the Spain squad despite having played just 105 minutes of football in nearly five weeks since he was injured playing for his country.
“Torres will join up with Spain. I am not happy, but I cannot do anything about it. We are talking to international managers and asking them to protect our players,” Benitez said.
“We have asked that the Spanish set-up does not take any chances, that they protect the player.”
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