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Benitez plays mind games ahead of must-win Cup clash

Published: 8:24AM Wednesday January 23, 2013 Source: Reuters

Well-versed in the psychology of two-legged cup ties, Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez applied pressure to his Swansea City counterpart today, suggesting he was quite happy to be trailing 0-2 ahead of tomorrow's League Cup semi-final.

Swansea's 2-0 first-leg victory at Stamford Bridge has put the thriving Welsh club within touching distance of their first major final, but Michael Laudrup's eye-catching side will face a severe test of nerves at the Liberty Stadium.

Chelsea have been rampant away from home, returning victorious from their last six domestic road trips, and Benitez believes his side can overhaul the deficit and book a final at Wembley against Aston Villa or Bradford City.

"For me, it's easier than for Michael Laudrup, because we have to score and we have to win the game," Benitez said today.

"For them, it depends, they may try to play on the counter-attack or play how they usually do, but I think they will wait for us and play deep.

"We have the confidence we can do it, we are playing against a good team, but if you remember the first game, we had a lot of chances. We made two mistakes and they scored, so we have to manage the situation, but our away form has been good."

Fernando Torres started in the 2-0 home defeat by Swansea, but was replaced by new signing Demba Ba late on, with the Senegalese substitute having a goal ruled out for offside.

Ba also started on the bench in the 2-1 victory over Arsenal on Monday (NZT), having got the nod over Torres in the two matches in between. Asked if they could play as a tandem tomorrow, Benitez suggested he would stick with one up front.

"It's not easy for us to play both at the same time, because of the quality of the players behind," Benitez said. "But we did it for 10-15 minutes the other day [against Southampton] and we can do it again if necessary.

"Torres was playing too many games as the only striker, but now we have another option, so we can rest Demba or Fernando, or we can play both, so I have a problem, but it's a nice problem."

Swansea, who have risen to ninth place in the Premier League under Laudrup, are hoping to go one better than twice reaching the FA Cup semi-final in 1926 and 1964. However, Laudrup insists his side are still underdogs.

"I don't think we are [favourites]," he said today. "We are fully aware of what Chelsea can do and we knew when the draw was made that it was going to be more than difficult.

"We are not a club that plays in these sorts of games very often, so we'll be doing our very best to get to the final and it would be a fantastic achievement."

The Dane, who has continued the sweet-passing game installed at Swansea by predecessors Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers, said his side would not be just trying to defend.

"We know we can't defend for 90 minutes, but we are also aware that there will be times where we need to," he said.

"But we'll be looking to get hold of the ball and try to attack."

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