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Torres, Carroll and their heavy price tags go head-to-head

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Associated Press
11/30/2012 9:49:51 AM
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LONDON -- With their goals in short supply, Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll are threatening to go down as the Premier League's most over-valued players.

And, burdened by their huge transfer fees, the Chelsea and West Ham strikers have much to prove on Saturday when they are set to go head-to-head in the Premier League.

Their careers threaten to be defined by one frenzied day on the final day of the January 2011 transfer window, when Torres went from Liverpool to Chelsea for 50 million pounds (then $80 million), prompting his former side to snap up Carroll from Newcastle for 35 million pounds (then $56 million).

Liverpool has since offloaded Carroll to West Ham -- temporarily at least -- to see if he can rediscover his goal-scoring touch. But it took Carroll nine games to get off the mark for the east London club in Sunday's 3-1 loss at Tottenham.

Torres has scored only 18 times in 88 league and cup matches for Chelsea, which heads into Saturday's match at West Ham on the back of two scoreless draws since Rafa Benitez took over as manager.

"We always talk about the strikers, 'They need to score,"' Benitez said Friday. "But the team needs to score and needs to win.

"In attack we still need to be a little bit quicker," the Spaniard said. "And if we can score this goal and we can win, there will be more confidence for everyone."

Chelsea is missing injured veteran players Frank Lampard and John Terry, with Benitez saying their leadership qualities "can be helpful when things are wrong."

The clean sheets, though, are encouraging.

"Rafa has already sorted out what was a problem under (former manager) Roberto (Di Matteo)," West Ham manager Sam Allardyce said. "And now they have got a couple of clean sheets in a row, so it will not be long before they can turn that into a victory if they continue to defend like that."

As West Ham looks to avoid a third straight loss, Carroll will be assessed after picking a minor knee problem.

"He's good in the air," Benitez said. "But we have some good players in defence also good in the air."

Chelsea hasn't lost to West Ham since May 2003, before Roman Abramovich re-established the west London club as a force in English football with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on players.

Now, though, Chelsea is third, seven points behind leader Manchester United.

"Chelsea is a top side and we have to show the other teams that we are a top side on the pitch -- not here," Benitez said, pointing to his head.

Taking Chelsea away for the first time could take the heat off Benitez, who has faced hostility from fans at Stamford Bridge in the draws against Manchester City and Fulham.

"If you support the manager it will be easier to achieve what we want to achieve," Benitez said.

It's the Manchester rivals leading the way just like last season, with second-place City six points clear of Chelsea and a point behind United.

"Over the years we've said that the top five or six are all capable of winning the league and eventually it does ends up being a two-horse race," United manager Alex Ferguson said ahead of Saturday's match at Reading. "Year after year it's been like that."

On Saturday, defending champion City faces an Everton side which remains sixth despite slowing down after a fine start to the season.

"Every game they play against a top squad they play very well, every match we play against them we have a problem," City manager Roberto Mancini said. "I think that tomorrow will be the same."

Arsenal hosts Swansea on Saturday surprisingly languishing in seventh place, with back-to-back draws leaving the team 12 points off the top.

"Not to win is negative, but in both games there was the opportunity to win the game. We lacked a little of fluency," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who said the Manchester front-runners have not been spectacular but "efficient."

West Bromwich Albion has been the most spectacular performer this season, sitting fourth despite a loss at Swansea halting a four-game winning run.

West Brom hosts Stoke on Saturday when fifth-place Tottenham is across London at Fulham, bottom-place Queens Park Rangers looks for its first win of the season against Aston Villa, and relegation-threatened Southampton faces struggling Liverpool.

In Sunday's only game, Norwich hosts Sunderland. The following night, Newcastle takes on Wigan with both teams two points above the relegation zone.

Fernando Torres (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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