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Benitez sweats on stars

LONDON, October 30 – Rafael Benitez will have to make a late decision on the fitness of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres as he looks to continue Liverpool's Premier League resurgence at Fulham.

STEVEN_GERRARD_1_Spain striker Torres returned from a groin injury to score in the 2-0 win over Manchester United last weekend at Anfield, a win that ended a run of four straight losses, but was rested for the midweek League Cup defeat at Arsenal.

Liverpool captain and England midfielder Gerrard has missed the past two matches with a similar injury and remains doubtful for Saturday’s trip to Craven Cottage.

Benitez is set to restore a host of regular players after using several fringe men for the 2-1 loss away to Arsenal.

Even though Benitez was impressed with the debut made late on at the Emirates by Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani the former Roma man is set to be left out of the starting line-up against Fulham.

Although Aquilani will be brought into the first-team picture gradually, Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt has already been impressed by his potential.

"We have known Alberto for a while and I’m very happy for him that he has made his debut.

"Hopefully we will see a lot more from him now. He’s a nice lad on and off the pitch and it’s good for him and us he has finally played."

The Reds, who have won four on the trot against Roy Hodgson’s team and have conceded once in their last six games against the Cottagers, know they need to build on last week’s triumph to continue to force their way back into the Premier League title race.

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But even though the victory over Sir Alex Ferguson’s team, which moved the Reds to within six points of the leaders Chelsea, has brought some respite, the Fulham game is followed by a crucial Champions League trip to Lyon, where Liverpool need a positive result to preserve their chances of reaching the knock-out phase.

Left back Emiliano Insua, who scored his first Liverpool goal in the defeat by Arsenal, acknowledges that it is another vital week for Benitez’s team and that they cannot afford to waste the post-Manchester United euphoria.

"Now we have to try and win at Fulham and then in the Champions League," he said. "We had a big win against Manchester United and we have always had belief in ourselves. We know we can do good things as a team.

"We have a very good team and we need to keep going."

Insua, 20, has established himself in the Liverpool team at the start of the campaign in the absence of the injured Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena and his form has also earned him an Argentina cap.

He added: "It has been a really good season for me, for my club and country, but I have to keep it going.

"I know I can keep on improving and I have a lot of confidence."

Argentina struggled to qualify for next year’s World Cup in South Africa but despite a difficult campaign and the prospect of a major tournament looming, Insua’s international captain Javier Mascherano is adamant the duo will concentrate solely on Liverpool.

Mascherano said: "With so many games for club and country I’ve been too busy. When our season here is finished then I will think about the World Cup. It was important to qualify.

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"But Liverpool is just as important for me. This is my club and I live here. This is my priority."

Fulham are hoping Danny Murphy can overcome a knee injury in time to face his former club.

The Cottagers are enjoying a healthy mid-table position despite having to deal with the added strain of Europa League football this season.

But having lost just five of their 19 home games last season, Hodgson’s men will be keen to improve on a run of two defeats from their four Premier League games at their west London home.

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