Rafael Benitez insists that Fernando Torres and Demba Ba can fit into the same team
But interim manager will have to break up his star midfield trio if he is to accommodate two strikers
Rafael Benitez asserts that Demba Ba and Fernando Torres can be striking partners as well as rivals but unless football is about to become a 12-man game it can only be achieved at the expense of one of the skilful triumvirate who conspire to make Chelsea such an explosively fluent outfit.
With 21 goals in their last six outings, the fashionable employment of a solitary forward ahead of dynamic midfield raiders can hardly be said to be holding Chelsea back. Juan Mata is in dazzling form, Eden Hazard spots a run and plays a pass with equal intuition, Victor Moses grows in influence, and with Oscar more than a capable deputy for any of their roles, no logical need exists to alter the balance of the side.
It seems more likely therefore that Benitez's view, expressed after their ruthless 5-1 dismantling of Southampton's FA Cup hopes, was designed to avoid further dilution of Torres's self-belief after he had just watched Ba score twice on his debut.
"They are both good players who can play together," said the interim manager of the options now available to him. "Ba had a successful partnership with Papiss Cissé at Newcastle so I see no reason why he can't play with Torres. They can compete or they can play together. We will see."
If Chelsea stay faithful to their present shape then Torres (below) knows he has reached the moment of truth at Stamford Bridge. On Saturday, Ba demonstrated a hunger that has been noticeably absent from the Spaniard's game for some time and the understanding the Senegalese forward immediately struck with colleagues he met for the first time only the previous day was instructive.
In delivering a close-range finish following Mata's sublime spadework and the near-post run to receive Hazard's prompt, Ba left no doubt that his return to London can be productive for both parties.
It was a satisfying afternoon all round for the Blues after their midweek surrender against QPR and with another important date following in two days' time when they host Swansea City in the Capital One Cup semi-final.
So comprehensive were they in exacting punishment for Southampton's shock opening goal that it threatens to have a lasting impact on the home team's efforts to hold on to their Premier League perch. And for penalty-marksman Frank Lampard there was the celebration of moving within nine of Bobby Tambling's goalscoring record for Chelsea while matching his FA Cup haul of 25 goals.
The penalty also took Lampard up to 193 goals, equalling Kerry Dixon's record for the club in joint-second behind Tambling.
"It meant a lot as I have so much respect for Kerry," Lampard said of equalling the milestone that Dixon set in 1992. "He was a player, is still a personality around the place and a good friend of mine."
With three goals in his last three matches for the club, the 34-year-old added: "I am enjoying my football, I have to say. I know there is a lot of talking going around but I am actually really enjoying playing."
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