Torres can lead Chelsea title bid

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iol spt feb28 Torres

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Frank Lampard insists Fernando Torres can fire Chelsea's challenge for the Premier League title when the leaders face west London rivals Fulham. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

London – Frank Lampard insists Fernando Torres can fire Chelsea's challenge for the Premier League title when the leaders face west London rivals Fulham on Saturday.

Jose Mourinho's team hold a slender one-point advantage over second-placed Arsenal and Chelsea's lack of firepower has led some pundits to suggest they won't be able to keep pace as the title race hots up.

Blues strikers Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba have scored only 11 league goals between them this season.

But Chelsea midfielder Lampard is hopeful that Torres's crucial goal in the 1-1 draw at Galatasaray in the Champions League last-16 first leg will spark a goal glut from the former Liverpool forward.

“People have made a lot about Fernando and his £50 million price tag over the years, but I don't think he has to prove or sit back and analyse too much what he's got to do,” Lampard said.

“He just has to go out and score goals, and 13 out of 17

European games is the sort of stuff we're talking about.

“He showed what he can do against Galatasaray, scored a very important goal for us, and got behind them a lot, particularly in the first half.”

With third placed Manchester City in League Cup final action against Sunderland on Sunday, Mourinho's men have an opportunity to pull clear of one of their main title rivals.

And Chelsea will make the short trip across the capital expecting to take all three points given Fulham's position at the bottom of the Premier League and Chelsea's seven-game unbeaten record at Craven Cottage.

If the leaders suffer a shock slip against Felix Magath's team, Arsenal will hope to capitalise by regaining top spot with a rare victory at Stoke.

Arsene Wenger's side have won only one of their last five visits to the Britannia Stadium and the fixture has often proved especially bruising for the sometimes fragile Gunners.

Wenger was forced to defend himself against criticism of his decision to give Arsenal's players two days off this week, and the French coach admitted he has yet to decide whether to recall Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil, who missed last weekend's win over Sunderland with a hip injury and has struggled to reach top form of late.

“He (Ozil) had a difficult game because he missed that penalty, and it was on his mind,” Wenger said.

“Sometimes when you're under this kind of pressure it's good to refresh.

“My opportunity is just to put the best team out who can win the game, it's not about individuals, it's about the team.”

Fourth placed Liverpool head to Southampton looking to maintain their grip on the final Champions League berth and keep in touch with Chelsea.

Brendan Rodgers' team sit just four points behind the leaders having emerged as surprise title contenders.

The Reds' positive mood was threatened this week following Rodgers' decision to haul off Denmark defender Daniel Agger just over an hour in last weekend's 4-3 win over Swansea.

Agger had been well below his best, prompting speculation that he might be sold in the close-season.

But, in a bid to show his support for Agger, Rodgers confirmed 48 hours before kick-off that the Dane would start at St Mary's.

“There has been a lot of spotlight, unfairly, on Daniel this week. What happened to Daniel was no different to what happened to any player,” Rodgers said.

Fixtures

Saturday (1500GMT unless stated)

Everton v West Ham, Fulham v Chelsea, Hull v Newcastle, Stoke v Arsenal, Southampton v Liverpool (1730GMT)

Sunday (all 1630GMT)

Aston Villa v Norwich, Swansea v Crystal Palace, Tottenham v Cardiff – Sapa-AFP


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