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Torres and Keane hold key - Rush

By Chris Bevan

Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane
Torres and Keane have failed to form a productive partnership at Anfield

Liverpool legend Ian Rush says Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane must be played together up front if the Reds are to win a first League title since 1990.

The duo have started just nine games in tandem since Keane joined for 20m in July and have scored only four goals between them while both on the pitch.

Rush told BBC Sport: "They've not had a chance to get a partnership going yet.

"Torres has not been fit but given time together they can take the team to the level that is needed to win the title."

Rafa Benitez's side are two points clear of second-placed Manchester United at the top of the Premier League but their recent form, particularly at Anfield, has been unconvincing.

And Rush, who formed a prolific pairing with Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool in the 1980s on his way to becoming the club's record scorer with 346 goals, feels Torres and Keane would prove a timely boost to the Reds' season if they belatedly spark together.

"Without a doubt, the key for me to Liverpool winning the League is if they get their partnership going," he explained.

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"Robbie has not had the opportunity to prove he can play with Fernando yet but, from now on, I think if Torres plays, then Keane will too.

"They are a partnership that can win games - and I think Keane can play a major part in Liverpool winning the title.

"You'd think that with Torres not playing, then Keane would be but he hasn't played a lot of games and he's also been taken off in a lot, too.

"A big reason for that is that Robbie is not a lone striker, he likes to play off a frontman - look at how well he and Dimitar Berbatov did last year for Tottenham.

"He does so well in that role - he works really hard for the team. I was happy when Liverpool signed him because, when he is in form, he will get you goals and also make goals as well."

Defending champions United could leapfrog Liverpool at the top of the table if they beat Bolton on Saturday, ahead of the Merseyside derby on Monday.

Back in August, if you had said to Liverpool fans that they would be top of the league now, they would have taken that. The only thing they have got to do now is stay there

Ian Rush on Liverpool's title challenge
Earlier this week, Torres said he believes United are now the title favourites, but Rush is confident Liverpool can maintain their challenge and end their long wait for their 19th league success.

"Will Liverpool win the title? I'd like to think so," Rush added.

"And if they are still in contention in the final month of the season then I think they will do it.

"The title is there for the taking this year. United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all dropped points but so have Liverpool, and they are top of the table.

"I don't think anybody has taken the initiative to go and win the league this year but the team to beat and the standard to match is United - whoever ends up above them will be champions.

"They set the standard and, even though they have dropped off slightly this season, nobody else has been able to raise their game.

Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush
Rush enjoyed a prolific partnership at Liverpool with Kenny Dalglish
"Chelsea are still in with a shout too but Liverpool are in a position where they have got to take advantage and move up to a new level themselves.

"Back in August, if you had said to Liverpool fans that they would be top of the league now, they would have taken that. The only thing they have got to do now is stay there."

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has questioned whether Liverpool have the mental toughness to come out on top in this season's title battle given their failure to sustain a challenge in recent seasons.

But Rush, who played 469 games for Liverpool in two spells spanning 15 years, is confident that the Reds' squad contains enough quality and know-how to see them through.

"Your mentality does play a part in winning things - because at the end of the season it can come down to experience," Rush stated.

"You only get experience by being in that position all the time. Good players take it in their stride and that is the difference between winning the league and finishing second.

"But when you are playing for Liverpool the expectations and demands are a lot higher than anywhere else so you have those sort of demands on you all the time.

Liverpool have got a strong enough squad to win the league - the players are already there

Ian Rush
"I don't think Rafa will buy anyone in the January transfer window, and not just for financial reasons.

"If you are going to buy now, then they have to be better than what you have already got so you are talking about paying 20m for somebody.

"Liverpool have got a strong enough squad to win the league - the players are already there.

"If you look at the backbone of the side - Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Torres - then that is already in place.

"There are only a couple of positions, like the full-backs, where Rafa seems unsure as to who is his best option. Nobody has made those places their own but whoever comes in can do a job on the day."

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see also
Man Utd are favourites - Torres
12 Jan 09 |  Liverpool
Liverpool hit by Torres setback
04 Dec 08 |  Liverpool
Benitez relaxed on Reds transfers
06 Jan 09 |  Liverpool
Keane not for sale, says Benitez
09 Dec 08 |  Liverpool
Keane believed goals would come
10 Nov 08 |  Liverpool
Benitez sure Keane will deliver
02 Dec 08 |  Liverpool
Torres expects Keane to come good
19 Sep 08 |  Liverpool
Liverpool complete Keane transfer
28 Jul 08 |  Liverpool


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