Spain rally behind Torres, hail Villa
Both of Spain's big-name strikers have received glowing endorsements from team-mates ahead of their World Cup quarter-final against Paraguay, but under very different circumstances.
Spain has progressed this deep into the tournament on the back of David Villa's four goals, despite often playing in a role wide on the left, while fellow marksman Fernando Torres has struggled on his return from a knee operation, visibly lacking match fitness and sharpness in front of goal in his barren tournament to date.
With Spain now outright favourites after Brazil's exit at the hands of the Netherlands on Friday, both strikers could yet have a major say as to whether Spain lift the World Cup trophy for the first time. Midfielder Cesc Fabregas is backing Torres to break his duck sooner rather than later, given his proven history of goal-scoring at all levels of the game.
"I think (Torres) is accustomed to this kind of situation because he has been under pressure ever since he was a little boy," Fabregas said on the eve of Saturday's match. "I think he is very much at ease and tomorrow he'll have a chance to showcase his talents."
Villa backed his striker partner, saying: "Torres helped the side a lot against Portugal and Fernando Llorente continued that work. Torres has admirable character and we all know his World Cup moment will arrive – hopefully against Paraguay."
Meanwhile, Spain's players hailed the contribution of Villa, who is now just two short of Raul's all-time record haul of 44 international goals for the country.
Playmaker Xavi said: "This World Cup has shown that it is difficult to beat Paraguay. We will have to work harder than we did against Portugal in the last round. We need to open up spaces between the lines of defenders and, especially, hit shots early. David is exceptional at that. He is going through a sensational stage in his career and deserves to be there among the top scorers of the tournament. With him we have a life insurance policy in front of goal and hopefully he will continue his streak."
Defender Gerard Pique added: "David Villa is on fire and he scored another goal against Portugal which is really good news for us. We've got so many players with a lot of quality. They can control the game and then it's easier to win. In every game we are getting better and against Portugal we played a really good game."