Interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez has taken the credit for Fernando Torres' improved form this season, claiming the Spain striker is benefiting from a tailored fitness regime. The £50m signing from Liverpool has had a torrid time at Stamford Bridge since his January transfer two years ago.
"Fernando has been doing a specific plan in the gym with our fitness coach Paco de Miguel. He's been lifting some weights and also working on his speed and you can see that he's stronger and quicker now," Benitez explained, ahead of his return to Anfield for a Premier League match.
The 29-year-old World Cup winner with Spain scored 81 goals in 142 games for the Reds but has managed only 31 in 156 appearances for the west London club. However, 20 of those goals have come in this season alone and this includes seven in 25 Premier League starts.
The numbers are not particularly impressive for a striker of Torres' calibre, but they are at least encouraging and suggest Benitez does have a point. The Spanish manager should know his compatriot, for it was under the former Real Madrid youth team coach that Torres established his reputation. The striker scored 24 goals in 29 starts in his first season in England, back in 2007.
"It was the same plan Paco used with him when we were together at Liverpool and as soon as we arrived at Chelsea in November, we started doing little things on this specific work. But it's not just his work with Paco. He has also been improving his finishing on the training pitch with both Bolo Zenden and Steve Holland," Benitez added.
Torres has started four of the last seven games for Chelsea, relegating another January signing - Senegalese Demba Ba - to the bench. Admittedly two of those games were Europa League fixtures and Ba is cup-tied but a return of three goals, an assist and a lot of ground covered in those games (four of which the Blues won) could be enough to give the Spaniard a start at his former club.
Liverpool host Chelsea at Anfield in a Premier League tie on Sunday 21 April, with the London club looking to maintain a challenge for a top four finish.