Ba set for St James' Park return

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

DEMBA BA with make his first return to St James' Park with Chelsea today, but Sylvain Marveaux insists the Newcastle United squad will do everything they can to make sure it isn't a happy return for their former team-mate.

Ba completed his £7.5m move to Chelsea last month after the Stamford Bridge outfit triggered the release clause in the striker's contract.

The Senegal international was Newcastle's top scorer with 13 goals before he left and he has since made a good impression in south London with a brace on his debut.

Ba received some criticism from sections of Newcastle fans, who believed his move to the Champions of Europe was driven by money, but the striker has told friend Marveaux that he can't wait to return to Tyneside today.

"Chelsea are full of very good players especially their strikers," said Marveaux, who should be available for today's game after shaking off an ankle injury.

"I spoke to Demba after the Villa game and he is very much looking forward to Saturday. He is a good friend of mine. We have been texting each other quite a lot.

"It will be very strange playing against him. He says he has been waiting for this game ever since he signed for Chelsea.

"It will be a great moment for him but I don't want it to be too great for him. He will want to score and we are determined that he won't do that.

"Demba is a miss but we have players who can score goals. Why not? We have very good players like Cisse, Gouffran, Shola, Cabaye who can all score goals."

Rafael Benitez brings his side to the North-East in desperate need of a win after they surrendered a two-goal lead to struggling Reading on Wednesday night.

The Blues are six points behind second-placed Manchester City, while the gap to leaders Manchester United now stands at 13 points.

Benitez and his men know another game without a win will see them lose more ground on the top two, but Marveaux insists his side are also desperate for another win.

He said: "Chelsea, to me are still one of the top, top clubs. They are always up there and challenging for trophies. This is the kind of game you want to play in.

"Are they more beatable now? I don't know. I will tell you after the game but I know it will be tough.

"Perhaps they are now a bit worried about playing us? They need points as well so there is pressure on them too. Of course, it will be a tough game for us because they have so many top players but so have we.

"We are at home and now I think the fans are very much with us. That will help. Everyone whether they are a player or a fan, will be feeling more positive about the game now that we have won such an important game against Aston Villa.

"The fans will be right behind us. Maybe this is not a good time for Chelsea to be playing us. You do not want to play a team that is feeling really good about itself."

Marveaux is now one of 11 French players on the books at Newcastle after the Magpies completed deals for Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Moussa Sissoko, Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara in January.

The club held a French themed day at their training ground on Thursday that saw the head chef cook up a variety of French delights, while on the field it was France v the rest of the world in training.

It was the rest of the world that came out on top and Marveaux revealed the French contingent are finding it easy to integrate into the squad.

He said: "When I joined Newcastle, I could never have imagined having so many team-mates from my own country. It is a weird sensation with so many Frenchman here. I know Yoan Gouffran from years ago, he is a good friend of mine so that is very good. I was not expecting anything like this, but what is most important is that they are all good players and good guys.

"Yes, it (France v the world) was a disaster. We had Danny Simpson and Michael Richardson as well but we are not blaming them!

"I am very unhappy at the result. They were better than us but it was just a bit of fun because we all mix very well.

"The new guys have a very good mentality. They don't just want to mix with their French team-mates. They want to get to know everyone, embrace everything here and learn the language.

"Of course, it is useful that some of us were already here so they can ask us questions and we can help them settle in. At first, we can act as translators for them.

"This is a great opportunity for the new signings. They did not just come here because there are so many French at Newcastle. Like me, it was always their dream to play in England. They know this is a big club and although we have had problems this season, the future is bright."

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