JAVIER MASCHERANO today hailed Fernando Torres' return to goalscoring form and predicted the Spaniard will spark a change in Liverpool's fortunes.
The Reds' leading striker climbed off the bench to mark his 100th appearance for the club with the crucial second goal in last night's 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic.
It was Torres' first goal since he rifled in during the 3-1 defeat at Fulham on October 31 and he again showed signs that he is nearing a return to his best after a groin problem.
When Torres came on to replace fellow goalscorer David Ngog, a subdued Anfield crowd instantly lifted and Liverpool's play upped a gear.
Now Mascherano is hoping the £20m man will repeat last season's heroics at Fratton Park - Torres scored twice in a dramatic 3-2 win - when they go to Portsmouth on Saturday.
'It is so important for us that Fernando stays fit,' said Mascherano, who again played an instrumental in Liverpool's performance.
'We know that we can win games when he is not playing but, equally, when he is on the pitch, you can see the respect that other teams give him.
'He causes them so many problems. With Fernando and Stevie (Gerrard) on the pitch, we know that there is always a chance something special can happen.
'It is so good for our team and the confidence they give us. When they are not in the squad, others have to do their job and David Ngog has been doing his job really well.