Our defence of the FA Cup begins tomorrow afternoon on the south coast when we take on Southampton at St Mary’s, with Rafael Benitez confirming he is taking every competition seriously.
The club announced the signing of Demba Ba from Newcastle United earlier today, and the manager stated that the Senegalese striker is being considered for selection.
On the arrival of Demba Ba
Having already scored 13 goals this season in a Newcastle side which have struggled, there is little doubt our latest acquisition is more than capable of lightening the goalscoring burden on the likes of Fernando Torres and Juan Mata.
With the fixtures beginning to pile up, and Daniel Sturridge moving to Liverpool earlier this week, Benitez was eager to get a striker in as quickly as possible.
‘He’s a good player and has proven he can score goals in the Premier League,’ said the Spaniard. ‘He has experience and we were looking for a player who could play right now as we have a game every three days.
‘We couldn’t be waiting and I believe he’s the type of player who can do well in the Premier League from the first day.
‘We have to be sure we have enough options in attack. We now have a different option with a player who can maybe play with Fernando but also on his own, it’s a different option for me as a manager which is good.
‘He can score goals, hold the ball, pass, has good movement and is good in the air; as a striker he can do everything you are looking for. He trained today, he is fine and he has a chance of playing tomorrow.
‘I had a conversation with him this morning and we were talking about what I am expecting from him.
‘We needed a striker right now, we’ve signed a good one, we will see with the rest of the squad but we are happy with the first signing.’
On squad news
The FA Cup has been a source of great joy for the club in recent years, with four triumphs since the final moved back to Wembley in 2007.
Going into tomorrow’s game, Benitez is shorn of two experienced players, although he has been boosted by the news that both Victor Moses and John Mikel Obi, who are heading off to the African Cup of Nations immediately after the game, are available.
‘Petr [Cech] did a light training session, we will see but it will probably be about two or three weeks, I don’t think we will change the estimations now,’ said Benitez.
‘With [John] Terry, it depends on the reactions, today he did a little bit more with the team. He’s closer but we don’t know how close, but it’s positive because he’s training.’
‘Moses and Mikel have to be there on Saturday, so they can play with us and are available. They have a training camp in Portugal.’
On his rotation policy
Wednesday’s 1-0 home defeat against Queens Park Rangers was our first defeat in the league since the beginning of December, and Benitez spoke about the reaction to the result, particularly having come under fire in sections of the media for making four changes to the team.
‘We were rotating the team and winning games and everybody was praising the decisions. You cannot be criticised and praised for the same thing,’ he explained.
‘We were rotating players because we were playing so many games. It was good because we had more players and we were using the squad. We are professional, we know how our players are and we trust the players.
‘It was necessary. Before I arrived we had 11 players who had been playing more than 60 per cent of the minutes, they couldn’t keep doing that because of the risk of injuries and tiredness.
‘Two or three players against QPR were more tired than the others and that’s maybe why we didn’t play with the same tempo that we wanted to.’