TOUGH TORRES TAKES HITS IN HIS STRIDE
Fernando Torres insists he has stood up to batterings from English defenders he would never face in Spain.
The Liverpool striker has scored 21 goals in 31 games for his new club, and boss Rafael Benitez concedes one of the main reasons the club splashed out a record fee on the Spain international was because of his bravery.
Torres underlined that with a hat-trick against Middlesbrough last weekend despite a bruising clash with defenders Emanuel Pogatetz and David Wheater.
Now Torres is out to add to his tally at Bolton on Sunday against a team known for their no-nonsense defending.
Another Spanish striker at Liverpool, Fernando Morientes, never got to grips with the physical aspects of the Premier League, but Torres certainly has.
He has scored nine goals in his last nine league games, and is closing in on 20 league goals for the club.
Benitez expects the former Atletico Madrid man to become the first Liverpool striker to score 20 league goals in a season since Robbie Fowler in 1995-96.
Torres said: "There are so many strong defenders here. But I have settled, I have scored goals and I have coped with the physical side.
"But it is true that I would not be getting hit in the back all the time in Spain like I am here.
"I am happy with the way I have learned to cope with the physical side of the English game."
Benitez added: "Fernando has done so well in his first season. Now if he keeps going, does not have any injuries, he will score plenty more.
"We signed him because we believed he had the quality, pace and strength for the Premier League. Also, because he is young, he can grow and improve at this level even more.
"He has adapted to the physical side of the English game very well. He is strong and can handle big defenders.
"In Spain he would not continually be hit from the back, but that is the way it is here and he has learned to cope.
"We signed him because we knew he would not be afraid of the centre-backs, he would be brave and be able to cope with that style of defending."
The Spanish superstar has so far netted 21 in all competitions - 15 of which have come in the Premier League. And with 12 league games remaining, Benitez is confident his record signing can reach other milestones.
Benitez said: "Hopefully he will score more than 20 in the league, that would be really good for us. That would be amazing.
"He is a young player, a foreign player and a striker and we know how difficult it can be for these types of players. But I don't really set targets, I just talk to him about scoring a lot of goals."
Torres is currently in line to become the most prolific 'debut season' striker in Liverpool's post-war history.
His average of a goal every 1.48 games is more than John Aldridge (1.55), Ian Rush (1.63), Roger Hunt (1.65), Robbie Fowler (1.83), Michael Owen (1.91) and Kenny Dalglish (2) managed in their first full seasons.
Benitez predicts that a player he already regards as one of Europe's finest could get even better.
He said: "He wants to learn, he wants to improve. That is the key. He is a young player and wants to learn everything.
"He knows he can improve, and that is one of the reasons he decided to come here. He wanted to win trophies but he also knew he could improve here, that is important for the future and for him.
"He is one of the best in Europe but he will get better because his mentality is good. He can improve two or three things and they will make him much better. He knows what they are but it's better not to say because then the opponents will know."