Briscoe: Pressure is on Reds

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.