Norwich City defender Dani Ayala relishes reunion with Chelsea’s Fernando Torres
Dani Ayala needs no introduction to compatriot Fernando Torres.
Norwich's Spanish centre-back admitted the opportunity to face Torres in direct combat this afternoon would be one of the high points of his career to date.
Ayala was on the books at Liverpool the season Torres plundered 23 goals in 40 appearances for the Reds, and the 21-year-old knows first hand the damage he can do at his best.
'I trained a lot with him, but he's a really good player. I know he's not scoring too many goals at the moment, but I know he will come back and score other goals,' said Ayala, who played five senior games for Liverpool before joining Norwich in August.
'I hope I can do well and try to stop him. He is unbelievable. I think maybe he has a little bit of a lack of confidence, but he will come back, for sure. I first saw him at Liverpool. From the first second I knew how good he was. I was watching him when I was in Spain, so I knew already how good he was.'
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Ayala has started the past four Norwich games in a blossoming partnership with another fellow Melwood graduate, Zak Whitbread, after an injury-interrupted start to his Canaries' career.
'I think he has been brilliant. He has so much experience. We have been doing quite well so I hope we can keep it going,' said Ayala.
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'Maybe with the ball I play a little bit at the back, but he is really strong. He has a lot more experience than me, so I think we've done quite well together.
'It was very frustrating at the beginning. But now I'm happy to be playing every game. I was coming to every single game, away or at home. It was frustrating because the team was doing well and winning games.
'I was feeling part of the team; they are brilliant and they make you feel confident. It is easier to do well when the team is doing brilliantly, so I'm looking forward to playing against Chelsea and see if we can win. I came to Norwich to get experience and play first team football in the Premier League, so I am happy to be playing every single game.'
Ayala is well aware he is still a work in progress in this country after what he accepted was a poor challenge at West Brom last weekend to concede a penalty. Baggies' striker Shane Long drew the hosts level from the spot at The Hawthorns before Steve Morison's late header put the seal on another stout defensive display from the visitors.
'I think it was a penalty. I missed the tackle. I hope tomorrow (Saturday) I can do better,' he said. 'I saw the penalty (on television) and I shouldn't have gone to ground, but it's just one second so you do what you think is the best.
'Sometimes you do bad, sometimes you do well. We had to defend more because they had a lot of attacking play. I think we did really well at the back. I hope we can keep going and get a clean sheet soon. Trying to get a clean sheet is really difficult, but I hope we can get it as soon as possible.'
Ayala had spells on loan at both Hull and Derby, but the move to Norfolk has worked out perfectly.
'When I first came I knew we had a good team so I knew we would do well,' he said. 'Everyone is together and that is really good for the team. Everyone is more together than at Liverpool, I would say. Everyone is happy and the spirit is quite high and we'll try to win as many games as possible.'