Demba Ba could well make his Chelsea debut on Saturday as the Blues begin their defense of the FA Cup with a trip to St Mary’s to face Southampton.
The former Newcastle striker has been registered in time to feature in the all-Premier League tie and Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez has said that Ba has been signed with the expectation that he can have an immediate impact.
“He's a good player and has proven he can score goals in the Premier League,” Benitez said, according to Chelsea’s official website. “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.”
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With Torres starting every match over the hectic festive period, Ba may well take his place up front on Saturday. And Benitez will hope that, having scored 13 Premier League goals this season, Ba will help improve an attack that struggled in a 1-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday.
The FA Cup looks sure to be taken seriously by Benitez, as, with the Premier League looking almost certainly out of reach, it represents a serious chance to add a major trophy to his resume. Another triumph in May would continue Chelsea’s domination of a completion that they have won four times out of the past six seasons.
May will also mark 10 years since Southampton made their last appearance in an FA Cup final when they lost out to Arsenal. Since then the south coast club have suffered plenty of trials and tribulations as they went through huge financial problems and were relegated to England’s third tier.
But Southampton are now back in the top flight and after a difficult start are proving competitive as they lie just outside the relegation zone.
Nigel Adkins’ men earned a hard-fought draw with Arsenal on New Year’s Day and it remains to be seen whether the squad will be rotated for the FA Cup third round tie.
D: Clyne, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox
M: Davis, Schneiderlin
Puncheon, Ward-Prowse, Ramirez
D: Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole
M: Ramires, Mikel
Moses, Mata, Hazard
Prediction: With Chelsea having rotated their side against QPR, Benitez will be expected to field a strong lineup at St Mary’s. While Southampton have been in decent form of late, Chelsea should get back to winning ways.
Southampton 0-2 Chelsea
Where to watch: The FA Cup third round tie will kick-off at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available from 12.30 p.m. via Fox Soccer 2Go.