Azpilicueta backing Ba to haunt Toon
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta is sure Demba Ba will not be fazed by his first return to St James' Park on Saturday.
Ba enjoyed a prolific period at Newcastle, scoring 29 league goals in an 18-month spell. However, he angered Toon fans by departing for Chelsea last month, after they triggered a release clause in his contract.
The Senegal international has impressed since arriving at Stamford Bridge – scoring three goals – and with team-mate Fernando Torres struggling for form, Ba could be set to start against his old side.
While the striker may face a frosty reception, Azpilicueta is positive he will take it all in his stride.
"I don't know how they (Newcastle fans) feel," Azpilicueta said. "Demba is a Chelsea player. He's going to do his best for Chelsea. It's true that he played very well there so I think they must be disappointed because he's a very good player, but he's going to be focused on the game."
Chelsea slipped up in their last away outing, drawing 2-2 with Reading on Wednesday, despite leading 2-0 with three minutes of normal time remaining. Juan Mata, who opened the scoring for the Blues, is adamant that a repeat cannot happen at Newcastle.
"There are no excuses. I don't know (if the collapse was down to a lack of belief), but it can't happen again," he said. "This match was very important because we had an opportunity to be closer to Manchester City and make the gap even bigger to the teams in fourth, fifth and sixth place but we didn't manage the game way we should have."
Interim manager Rafael Benitez is expected to confirm on Friday whether Mata will be fit to take on Alan Pardew's side. The Spain international was forced off towards the end of the game at Reading with an ankle problem.