LONDON (AP) — All 20 English Premier League clubs enter the FA Cup this weekend after a grueling festive schedule, giving many exhausted players a chance to take a breather.
Chelsea begins its cup defense at Southampton on Saturday, with Rafa Benitez's side reeling from a four-game winning run being ended by Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday to remain fourth in the Premier League.
Striker Fernando Torres, who has started all 20 league matches this season, could make way for Demba Ba if the Senegal international completes his move from Newcastle.
"Fernando is one of the players who needs to rest. Two or three players have been playing too many games in the last weeks and months," Chelsea manager Benitez said. "Managing that was going well but against QPR it didn't work. Some of the players couldn't get to the level we were expecting.
"Without talking about names, if you have another striker you can play with two strikers if you need to. Or if you want to rest a striker then you can do that and at the moment we are a bit short."
In another meeting of topflight clubs in the third round on Saturday, Manchester United faces West Ham in a position of strength after establishing a seven-point lead in the title race over Christmas and New Year.
But despite not winning the FA Cup since 2004, manager Alex Ferguson's priority is the league and Champions League.
That means the 39-year-old Ryan Giggs and the 38-year-old Paul Scholes could be among the players to be rested for the trip to Upton Park.
"We have a big squad and you're not going to play every game," Giggs said. "The likes of me and Scholesy probably play fewer matches than a lot of the players but we know we have to be ready when we're called upon."
The cup, though, is a welcome distraction for teams like Newcastle, which is hovering above the Premier League relegation zone.
But the northeast club has a potentially tricky trip to the south coast on Saturday to face Brighton, having lost to the second-tier side in the fourth round last year.