LAMPARD: AN EVEN START
Frank Lampard acknowledges we must be at our best if we are to beat Manchester City in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
The midfielder has the greatest respect for Roberto Mancini's side, admitting they possess a wealth of talent within their squad, but believes that although City have had a few extra days to prepare, our progress in the Europa League on Thursday night can help spur us on to reach the Cup final for the fifth time in seven years.
Looking ahead to Sunday's showdown, in which he could make his 600th appearance for the Blues, Lampard said: 'They'll be fresher than us but we've come off the back of qualifying for a semi-final. We're all professionals, we're all fit lads, and it will be about rest and recovery and preparing. It won't be an excuse going into the game for sure.
'I'm sure they'd rather have stayed in the Champions League or Europa League, which brought them a more confident and successful season than they've had, so I think they'll be on a high from their last result in the league but other than that it's an even start for two good teams.
'If they're at their best and we're below our best they'll probably win the game, and vice-versa,' he continued. 'You're talking about two very good teams and I've got a lot of respect for them. It will be a good match, especially if both teams are at their best.
'I've seen some people be quite negative about them this year because they set a level last year. It's been difficult this year for a lot of teams because Man United have been very consistent in the league and pulled away, but Man City are a top football team.
'There are a few key threats. [Carlos] Tevez is a fantastic player, I love his energy and his quality, he's always a threat and he's done it against us a few times. [Sergio] Aguero, with what he did the other night, his speed off the mark and his ability, they have them all over, [David] Silva, [Yaya] Toure, so you can't isolate Tevez but he is a fantastic player.'
Rafael Benitez is expected to rotate his side from Thursday's game in Moscow against Rubin Kazan, and Lampard admits nobody is guaranteed a spot at Wembley, but he is of course eager to continue his story at the national stadium.
'I've had success there with England and Chelsea, but every game is different,' he said. 'We've had a lot of great finals at Wembley and elsewhere. The FA Cup is a tournament that's been pretty good for us.
'Nobody is an automatic selection though because there are lots of games and [the manager] is changing it regularly. I'm like everyone else, I want to play every game but it's not possible.'
If he is included, Lampard will be looking to creep closer to Bobby Tambling's club record of 202 goals, but more important will be his place in yet another Wembley final.