Chelsea 1 Wigan Athletic 0: Benayoun retains his faith in Torres despite barren spell

Yossi Benayoun has insisted Fernando Torres remains “the best striker in the world”, despite seeing the Spaniard extend his goal drought.

Torres has gone 817 minutes – more than 13-and-a-half playing hours – without scoring for club and country, with his misery continuing in the victory over Wigan on Saturday.

The 27-year-old wasted a golden chance to begin repaying his record-breaking £50m price tag in the final minutes at Stamford Bridge when Benayoun put the ball on a plate for him.

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But his rasping finish was close enough to Ali Al Habsi to allow the goalkeeper to make a fine reaction save.

Torres’s rueful smile masked his lack of confidence, but team-mate Benayoun, who also played alongside the Spaniard at Anfield for three years until last summer, was adamant the striker would come good.

“For any midfielder, it is great to play with a player like Fernando,” said Benayoun, who came off the bench for his first Chelsea appearance for almost six months on Saturday following a serious Achilles injury.

“For me, he is the best striker in the world.

“We have three very good strikers in (Didier) Drogba, (Nicolas) Anelka and him.

“For any midfielder, it is easy to play with him and I think he will score a lot of goals because he’s just quality.”

Torres started on the bench against Wigan, seen as an indication that he would be in the starting XI for tomorrow night’s Champions League quarter-final second leg at Manchester United.

Benayoun is also in contention for a game Chelsea must win to keep alive their last realistic hope of silverware this season. “Everyone knows this is the most important game of the season,” the Israel captain said.

“We have to save our season and try to qualify. It will not be easy because Manchester United are a very good team.

“But Chelsea during the last few years have proved they can win at United and they have done it a few times so we will give 100 per cent and try to win the game.”

Manager Carlo Ancelotti admitted his side had no chance at Old Trafford unless they make a massive improvement on what was an ugly performance.

Wigan’s defeat left them rooted to the foot of the table, two points adrift of safety.

Manager Roberto Martinez, adamant Torres had fouled Al Habsi in the build-up to Florent Malouda’s winner, said: “It’s a shame we haven’t got 30 games to go because I feel the team has finally clicked.”