Blues edge closer to Ba deal as workload takes toll on Torres

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The Independent Online

Demba Ba is expected to complete his long-awaited move to Chelsea today, having been at the club's training ground yesterday for tests on the knee that caused him to fail a medical at Stoke City in January 2011.

The Newcastle United striker met with members of the Chelsea squad at Cobham and it is still hoped that he will be signed in time for the lunchtime deadline that will allow him to play in the FA Cup third-round tie tomorrow against Southampton. The competition has taken on greater significance since Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Queen's Park Rangers in the Premier League.

Rafa Benitez's team are now 14 points behind the leaders Manchester United, albeit with a game in hand, and are facing a growing number of injury problems. There are suggestions that they may explore extra cover in the goalkeeper position with Petr Cech out for another two to three weeks with a groin injury.

His understudy Ross Turnbull played against QPR on Wednesday, having come on as a substitute when Chelsea beat Everton last Sunday. It was just his 12th start for the club in more than three years and beyond him is Hilario, the veteran Portuguese goalkeeper. Cech's injury is a concern for Benitez, who cannot afford for the 30-year-old to delay his return too long.

There are also worries over John Terry, who has not played for the club since the draw with Liverpool on 11 November when he sustained the bruising to his bone that has caused him such problems. His playing record has been patchy by his standards, having made just three starts for Chelsea in the last three months as he struggles to shake off his knee problems.

Benitez conceded that his players were starting to feel the effects of a punishing December in which they played nine games.

Torres, in particular, has started 31 games this season, more than any outfield player and as many as Cech, and Benitez conceded that the striker now needs a rest. Ideally, the club would play Ba tomorrow against Southampton but that rests upon his registration being done in time.

Benitez said: "Fernando is one of the players who needs to rest. Two or three players have been playing too many games in the last weeks and months. Managing that was going well but against QPR it didn't work. Some of the players couldn't get to the level we were expecting."