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Chelsea: Torres or Ba for League Cup semifinals?

Photo: Javier Garcia/Icon SMI

Fernando Torres battles with Shaun Derry of QPR during a Premier League match last week.

The goal-scoring burden has been lifted from Fernando Torres, and now Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez must decide whether to give new striker Demba Ba another start on Wednesday against Swansea in the League Cup semifinals.

While Torres struggled to find the net after joining Chelsea two years ago, Ba marked his debut Saturday with two goals in the FA Cup win at Southampton.

"Now we have two options, depending on whether we want to play one way or the other way,'' Benitez said. "Fernando is really pleased. He knows he cannot play every game, and he needs someone else who can give him a rest.''

Torres has started all 20 Premier League matches this season, scoring seven goals, while Ba scored 13 before leaving Newcastle last week.

"It's a great opportunity. I can manage two different players, for different games, or maybe both at the same time,'' Benitez said.

And Ba is delighted with how easily he has slotted into his third team in English football.

"The three (players) behind me make football look easy,'' the Senegal striker said. "I just try to run in behind and try to create space as well for them. I know when they have some space they will be very dangerous.''

Swansea will be no walkovers, having held Chelsea to 1-1 draws in their last two encounters, and drawing 2-2 with Arsenal in the FA Cup on Sunday.

Swansea can afford to challenge for the cups, with the team sitting ninth in the Premier League.

But Aston Villa faces Bradford on Tuesday in the other two-legged semifinal while embroiled in a Premier League relegation battle.

Paul Lambert's team, which reached the fourth round of the FA Cup by beating Ipswich on Saturday, is only one point above the drop zone.

Yet, the Villa squad hopes to reach a final to give captain Stiliyan Petrov a trip to Wembley Stadium while recovering from acute leukemia.

"One day he is up, one he is down, so it would depend on Stan, that, but the lads would love it if he could be there,'' Villa goalkeeper Shay Given said.

Petrov's personal battle puts Villa's on-the-field struggles into perspective.

"He is still fighting hard with all the treatment he is getting. We are all behind him,'' Given said. "We know we are in a relegation fight in the Premier League but to see the fight Stan is coming under and showing is really inspirational ... and it gives everyone a huge lift.''

Villa must overcome a Bradford side that might play in the fourth tier but ousted Arsenal in the quarterfinals.

"The Bradford lads will give it everything they have got to try to turn us over ... it's always tough,'' Lambert said. "Bradford have got nothing to lose and everything to gain.''

The FA Cup allowed striker Darren Bent to break back into the Villa team on Saturday after losing his starting place in the league to Christian Benteke.

And, after scoring against Ipswich, Bent will be hoping for another start against Bradford.

"Darren coming back and doing as well as he did, that's what you need from your strike force,'' Lambert said. "Andreas Weimann is in a rich vein of form as well.''

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