FA Cup

Briscoe: Pressure is on Reds

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Sat, 05 Jan 2013 10:23:00

Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez is confident the signing of Demba Ba will ease the striking burden on Fernando Torres.

Senegal international Ba completed his ?7million switch to Stamford Bridge from Premier League rivals Newcastle on Friday and is in contention to make his debut in the FA Cup third round clash with Southampton on Saturday afternoon.

Torres has already clocked up 32 appearances for the Blues this term due the shortage of options up front for the Premier League side, a situation which was exacerbated by the sale of Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool.

Benitez is confident the Spain international will welcome the increased competition for places, particularly after voicing his opinion that new faces were needed in conversation with his compatriot.

He said: "Fernando is happy to see good players signing because it means we can win more games.

"I was talking with him in the last couple of weeks and he said we needed more bodies. We know he is playing too many games but we couldn't rotate him like we could with other areas of the squad because we did not have many options in attack.

"With Daniel Sturridge leaving, having Fernando as the only main striker was always a problem.

"So Demba is a good option for us because I can manage both strikers and hopefully it will good for both of them.

"It is one thing if Torres needs it, but it's good for the team to have players competing for their places because you can keep everyone on their toes."

And Benitez has played down suggestions that Chelsea have taken a gamble on their move for Ba, with concerns previously raised over the long-term fitness of the former West Ham and Hoffenheim man.

He said: "There is no risk with Ba. He was playing every game for Newcastle and if he could do that it means he is fit and available. We'll try to manage the situation but he can play for us. He is fine."

The Blues boss added: "We were looking for a player who can play right now because we have a game every three days and can't be waiting for someone who will take three months to settle into the Premier League.

"He scores goals, he can hold the ball up, he can pass, he is good in the air and his movement is good.

"He has everything you are looking for in a striker and at Newcastle he showed he can also play as a second striker behind Papiss Cisse.

"He can even play out wide but when we have Mata, Hazard, Oscar and Moses, why do I need to use Ba as a winger? He is a striker and we've bought him to compete with Fernando."

Swansea may have won the last two meetings between the sides, but Arsenal are unbeaten in the Premier League since the Swans' 2-0 triumph at the Emirates Stadium in December.

Walcott, with 14 goals to his name so far this season, has been an important figure in Arsenal's resurgence, and has flourished since being deployed as a striker, claiming a superb hat-trick in the 7-3 thumping of Newcastle.

And while many focus on the 23-year-old's electric pace, Laudrup knows the England international is more than a one-trick pony.

The Dane said: "He is a threat when he plays wide or through the middle, he is not a centre forward but his pace makes him dangerous to every defence.

"He is faster than 98% of centre-backs so you know you have to be careful as one ball and he is gone.

"Speed is very important - obviously speed without quality is useless - but he has quality as well. He is dangerous even if he is not a number nine.

"I have seen players with only pace and nothing else, but you have to know when to run and what to do with the ball.

"If you are just a runner it is not enough, you should go star in 'Forrest Gump' or something like that.

"This is football, even if centre-backs are not as fast they can be clever so you cannot only have pace.

"He has real quality and it means it is a different Arsenal team to the one we played at the Emirates last month."

Laudrup is looking to strengthen his squad during the January transfer window, but rumours have persistently linked Danny Graham with a ?5million move to Norwich or Reading.

Graham has scored twice in his last two appearances, but Laudrup has not received any offers for the striker, although he will speak to the player before tomorrow's game to make sure he is not unsettled by the speculation.

He said: "I haven't heard anything official. We have important games coming up and everything else is second to that. I don't know how it will end up.

"I haven't spoken to Danny yet. I have spoken to some other players, but I have said I will do it.

"I will have to ask the question to players who are involved in potential moves if they are focused.

"I will ask them to answer honestly. If they say they have a lot of things going on then I say okay at least you are being honest and they will be ruled out for the coming game.

"If they say they are 100% they will be part of the squad if I think they should be part of it."

The Brazilian striker, who has struggled with injury for much of the first half of the season, left the Rossoneri to return to his home country, depriving coach Massimiliano Allegri of one of his attacking options.

With Robinho set to follow Pato into the Brazilian league imminently, Allegri's choices up front are reduced to Stephan El Shaarawy, Bojan Krkic and Giampaolo Pazzini for Sunday's clash with the Bianconeri.

Pato or no Pato, Siena nonetheless face a difficult task in the Lombardy capital on Sunday, according to Simone Vergassola.

"It's going to be difficult, but we have shown this season that we can pick up points anywhere and we are working hard on this," he said on his club's website.

"We need to improve our league position. We have been training very intensely these days, which was only right because we have had to get to know the new coach and because we must improve.

"We are going to have to know how to defend well at the San Siro, but we also have to be clever to counter quickly and correctly, making the most of the chances we get."

Siena are led to Milan by Giuseppe Iachini, who replaced Serse Cosmi just before Christmas and suffered a 2-0 defeat at home to Napoli in his first game in charge.

That was the Tuscan side's fourth defeat in a row, leaving them three points adrift at the foot of the table.

Ghana midfielder Boateng was followed off the pitch by his AC Milan team-mates at fourth-tier side Pro Patria after several players were racially abused.

The 25-year-old has been publicly backed by Milan, with president Silvio Berlusconi insisting his players would always walk off the pitch if they are subjected to further racist abuse.

Boateng has, however, revealed he could be forced to turn his back on the Serie A club after telling Germany's Bild newspaper he is now considering whether to leave Italy during the current transfer window.

"It's not something which you can just shake off," he said.

"I will sleep on it for the next three nights and then sit down with my agent Roger Wittmann next week.

"We will have to see if it's really worth carrying on playing in Italy."

The Italian FA responded to the incident by announcing they would conduct an investigation while Boateng, who is contracted at San Siro until 2014, has received widespread support from around the football world.

The midfielder said he was "proud" that his team-mates had joined him in boycotting the the match. Boateng revealed also that the chants started before the game commenced, but after 26 minutes, he had had enough.

"I could hear the first monkey calls after five minutes when I was on the ball," he said.

"At first, I didn't think anything of it, but then it happened over and over again. I went to the referee and told him that if I hear it again, then I'd quit.

"He tried to calm me down. When it started again in the 26th minute with the monkey calls, then I thought 'that's it, I'm not carrying on'."

Boateng told CNN on Friday that he would walk off the pitch again should he face further racist chants - despite FIFA and UEFA warning players against that action.

Boateng said he wanted to send out a message that racism would not be tolerated.

"It's easy to just turn a blind eye; taking action is more difficult," he added.

"I would have done the very same thing had it been a Champions League match against Real Madrid - and I will always do it.

"I was angry, sad, shocked. For things like this still to happen in 2013 is a disgrace, not just for Italy, but for football in the whole world.

"I wanted to send out a signal to the whole world that things cannot go on like this.

"We need to open our eyes. Enough is enough. Racism has no place in football."

Briscoe bagged the winner in last month's replay against Blue Square Bet Premier rivals Lincoln to set up the money-spinning third-round tie against Brendan Rodgers' side.

The 24-year-old, the Stags' joint-longest serving player along with goalkeeper Alan Marriott, believes he and his team-mates can play without fear against the Premier League giants - even claiming that the club's 2011 FA Trophy final appearance against Darlington was a bigger occasion.

"That was bigger because it was at Wembley," said Briscoe. "It is the biggest game of my career so far.

"That day the pressure was even between the teams and, unfortunately, we didn't turn up and lost 1-0 to a late goal.

"Sunday is definitely a bigger game, but not a bigger occasion. On Sunday there is virtually no pressure on us playing against one of the best, and one of the biggest, teams in the world.

"We are not expected to win. Anything that we do well against Liverpool will be a bonus. We could come off the pitch having lost 5-0 and still be clapped off.

"All the pressure is on them. They are going to want to win the same as us, but they are expected to win. The FA Cup is a massive competition and they are one of the teams looking to lift the trophy.

"They are a huge football club coming to little old Mansfield and it is going to be a tough ride for them."

Briscoe admits the tie being shown on television will provide the Mansfield players with added incentive to perform.

He said: "This is not a pre-season friendly. Like I said, Liverpool will come here wanting - and expecting - to win.

"So they won't take it lightly. Some of their main players will play, that goes without saying.

"But whoever plays, we won't make it easy for them. We are all in the shop window, it is going out live on TV so we want to show the world what we can do.

"It is a chance in a lifetime so you have to grab it with both hands. We have to go out and enjoy it, being part of an amazing occasion."

Mansfield manager Paul Cox, who got married on Friday and celebrates his 41st birthday on Sunday, will be able to include Ritchie Sutton is his squad after the defender served a one-match suspension on New Year's Day.

Jake Speight is expected to be restored to the starting XI, partnering Matt Green in attack.

The Stags go into the game against the seven-time winners of the competition in good form having lost just one of their last 12 matches, and they will be hoping to evoke memories of their League Cup draw against Liverpool in 1970.

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