Newcastle United v Chelsea - Saturday, 3pm
RAFAEL Benitez is backing Demba Ba to cope with the hostility of home fans when the striker makes an early return to his former club at the weekend.
The Senegal front man is bound to cop some flak from the Geordies for defecting south in the January transfer window, but the Chelsea boss says that will not be a factor in deciding whether Ba or Fernando Torres start.
“I think that he is quite confident he can do well, if he plays,” Benitez said.
“He was training well and he’s a professional. He know that some fans will not be happy, but they will understand the situation. I think he is ready to do his best for the team.
“I will talk to him and he will give me the weaknesses and the strengths of each individual of Newcastle.”
Juan Mata and Petr Cech trained as normal today (Friday) and will be available at St James' Park, as is John Terry, who was rested at Reading in midweek.
The Chelsea captain endured an energy-sapping return to the starting line-up at Brentford in the FA Cup, following his long lay-off with a knee injury.
David Luiz is still recovering from an ankle injury, while Eden Hazard sits out the third and final game of his ban for the ball-boy incident at Swansea City.
On the face of it, losing a two goal lead to lowly Reading in the final minutes was the last thing Chelsea and Benitez need right now, but the interim manager has put a positive spin on the obvious disappointment.
“I was really pleased with the performance of the team,” he said.
“Not so pleased with the last minute lack of concentration, but even the last 10 minutes, we were doing well.
“We had another chance, but we couldn't score the third goal and just one minute of lack of concentration changed everything.
“I think if you look at the games we didn’t win, we could have won all of them. In all the games we had chances to win, so that's the main thing for me.
“I am quite confident, with players coming back - David Luiz, Hazard, Victor Moses and Obi Mikel - we'll have more players, more options and hopefully in the next couple of months we can keep the consistency and keep winning games.”