PREVIEW-Soccer-Spain hope to see the new Torres against Italy
MADRID, March 24 |
MADRID, March 24 (Reuters) - Spain are hoping to see glimpses of the Fernando Torres that has taken the English Premier League by storm when they meet world champions Italy in Elche on Wednesday (kickoff 2100 GMT).
The 24-year-old has chalked up 27 goals since moving from Atletico Madrid to Liverpool last July but he has yet to show the same effectiveness in front of goal when he dons the red shirt of Spain.
Torres has found the net just twice in the last 18 months for Spain and his total of 15 goals in 46 games is a relatively modest one for an international striker.
However, Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro believes Torres has become a far better player since moving to England.
"Fernando Torres has made an incredible improvement," the Real Madrid defender told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Last year I saw him as a bit of a softie, someone who hid, but then he went to the Premier League, where you can't be a softie, and exploded."
Torres himself admits that he needed to leave Atletico in order to develop as a player.
"I saw that I had done all I could and that things weren't getting any better," he told Spanish television station La Sexta.
"I needed to play in the Champions League, aspire to win things and feel like an important player recognised outside Spain and that's why I had to leave."
As well as Torres, Spanish eyes will also be on his club colleague Alvaro Arbeloa, Getafe midfielder Ruben de la Red and Real Mallorca defender Fernando Navarro, all of whom could win their first caps in Wednesday's match.
Valencia defender Carlos Marchena is a doubt after suffering a blow to the head during his side's 3-2 win over Real Madrid on Sunday.
The game is Spain's last match before they announce their squad for Euro 2008, but coach Luis Aragones has made it clear that there are likely to be further changes before the tournament.
"This list isn't definitive," Aragones said on Saturday. "Any player that is in form could be called up."
The Italy squad is dominated by players from AS Roma (Christian Panucci, Alberto Aquilani, Daniele De Rossi, Simone Perrotta) and AC Milan (Massimo Ambrosini, Massimo Oddo, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo).
But coach Roberto Donadoni may be tempted to tilt the balance in his starting line-up in favour of the contingent from Roma, who are 15 points ahead of AC Milan in the Serie A and are the only Italian team to have reached the Champions League quarter-finals.
Inter Milan Marco Materazzi should get his first run out since injuring his thigh injury playing in a 3-1 defeat by Hungary in an August friendly.
Spain: Iker Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Raul Albiol, Joan Capdevila; Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta or Xaxi, Marcos Senna, Albert Riera; David Villa, Fernando Torres.
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon; Christian Panucci, Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Barzagli, Gianluca Zambrotta; Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, Simone Perrotta, Mauro Camoranesi; Luca Toni, Antonio Di Natale. (Additional reporting by Paul Virgo in Rome, editing by Martin Petty)
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