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Liverpool lose injured Torres for rest of European season

Striker Fernando Torres has scored 22 goals in a difficult season for English club Liverpool.
Striker Fernando Torres has scored 22 goals in a difficult season for English club Liverpool.
  • Fernando Torres ruled out for about six weeks as he needs operation on his knee
  • Liverpool striker will miss rest of European season and faces battle for World Cup fitness
  • Arsenal's English title hopes suffer big blow with shock 3-2 defeat at Wigan
  • Real Madrid close to within a point of Spanish leaders Barcelona, beating Valencia 2-0

(CNN) -- Spain striker Fernando Torres faces a race against time to be fit for the start of the World Cup after being ruled out for the rest of the European soccer season.

Torres' English club Liverpool announced that the player was to have knee surgery on Sunday night and would be sidelined out for about six weeks.

That means the 26-year-old will miss the last four games of the English Premier League campaign, with Liverpool battling to qualify for next season's Champions League. He has scored 22 goals this season, but had a month out after a knee operation in January.

Top scorer Torres will also sit out both legs of the Europa League semifinal against Spanish side Atletico Madrid, with the second-tier European club tournament being Liverpool's only hope of winning a trophy this season.

Fernando saw a specialist in Spain and it was decided he needs surgery on a torn cartilage in his right knee
--Liverpool Web site

"Fernando saw a specialist in Spain earlier today and it was decided that he would need surgery on a torn cartilage in his right knee," Liverpool's Web site reported on Sunday.

"This will be carried out later tonight. We cannot comment ahead of the operation, but as a guide, the usual rehabilitation period for this type of procedure is around six weeks."

The World Cup in South Africa kicks off on June 11, with Spain's first match against Switzerland five days later -- which gives Torres a two-week window to return to match fitness. Spain coach Vicente del Bosque must name his final 23-man squad by June 1.

European champions Spain will have pre-tournament friendlies in Austria against Saudi Arabia on May 29 and South Korea on June 3, then play Poland in Murcia on June 8.

Meanwhile, Arsenal's English Premier League title hopes are over after the third-placed London club conceded three goals in the last 11 minutes to lose 3-2 at struggling Wigan.

Arsenal led with goals by England winger Theo Walcott and French defender Mikael Silvestre either side of halftime, but Ben Watson pulled one back with 10 minutes to play and a howler by Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski gifted Titus Bramble a headed equalizer and Charles N'Zogbia curled in a superb injury-time winner.

It was Arsenal's second defeat in five days following the 2-1 reverse at fourth-placed Tottenham, and left Arsene Wenger's team six points behind leaders Chelsea with three games to play.

Wigan moved seven points clear of the relegation zone to almost guarantee another season in the top flight.

Aston Villa moved above Liverpool into sixth place with a 2-1 win at relegated Portsmouth as substitute Nathan Delfouneso scored the winner with his first touch after Norway striker John Carew leveled and then missed a first-half penalty.

In Spain, Real Madrid closed the gap on leaders Barcelona with a 2-0 victory at home to third-placed Valencia.

Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain coolly slotted his 25th league goal of the campaign after turning onto Guti's threaded pass in the 25th minute, while fellow top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo sidefooted home Marcelo's low cross with 12 minutes to play to also have 27 this season.

Real trail champions Barca by one point with five matches to play, while Valencia are another 24 points adrift.

Mallorca can move up to fourth place above Sevilla with victory at home to Osasuna on Monday.

In Sunday's other games, Athletic Bilbao stayed seventh after a 0-0 draw at home to struggling Zaragoza, third-bottom Tenerife won 3-2 against eighth-placed Getafe, Deportiva La Coruna drew 0-0 with Almeria, while Malaga were also held goalless by fellow relegation battlers Valladolid.

In Italy, Roma returned to the top of Serie A with a 2-1 victory against Rome rivals Lazio on Sunday.

Montenegro forward Mirko Vucinic scored both goals, the second a fine free-kick, after Tommaso Rocchi's 14th-minute opener for Lazio as Roma went one point clear of champions Inter Milan with with games to play.

Lazio should have led 2-0 but Sergio Floccari missed a penalty just after halftime, while teammate Cristian Ledesma was sent off at the end.

Third-placed AC Milan lost 2-1 at Sampdoria, with defender Daniele Bonera sent off after 53 minutes with his team 1-0 up thanks to a first-half goal from Marco Borriello.

Antonio Cassano leveled from the penalty resulting from Bonera's dismissal and Giampaolo Pazzini headed an injury-time winner to put his side fourth, seven points behind Milan.

In Germany, Borussia Dortmund failed to overtake fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen after conceding a late equalizer in the 1-1 draw with visiting strugglers Hoffenheim.

Bottom club Hertha Berlin earned a 2-2 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt but are still six points from safety with three games to play.

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