LAMPARD: BEST INTENTIONS

Posted on: Tue 17 Apr 2012

The European champions may be in town but Frank Lampard is keen to turn the focus back on the home side ahead of the first leg of our second semi-final in four days.

Not even a 5-1 Chelsea win in a tricky FA Cup match at the weekend will alter the fact Barcelona start the tie as favourites in most people's eyes, but as the Napoli home game proved, this current Blues squad is more than capable of overturning odds when they play as a team and up to individual ability.

There is more that needs to be right on the night against Pep Guardiola's side, as the vice-captain pointed out on the eve of the game, but confidence is high in the Chelsea camp as the weekend at Wembley made clear.

'I quite like the tag of being underdogs,' said Lampard. 'It is refreshing if you believe in yourselves, and we do believe in ourselves.

'The last thing we want to do is take too much fear into this game. You can talk yourself into fear by talking up Barcelona all the time and we have to believe in ourselves. We have to respect the opposition but we have to play our game.

'Our style of play has been very effective lately. We are mixing an organised, disciplined game with some very good, attacking football.

'On our day and the way we are playing at the moment we can be a match for anyone,' he insisted.

'At the same time we completely respect that not only are Barcelona the in-form team at the moment but the dominant team in Europe over the last few years, but I believe we have a very good chance of winning the game. However we have to be at our best because we are taking on the best.'

There can be no accusation of naivety in Lampard's pre-match assessment given his prominent part in the eight meetings with Barcelona since 2005. He understands the Catalan club's style and some basics that must be remembered to stand a chance.

'It is imperative to play a pressing game against them, but it is a question of which areas of the pitch to do it, which is down to us organising the game with the staff.

'There is no way you can be passive, we have to try to close down space and we will have our game plan of how to attack them, but the main thing is a sense of urgency in our defending. You have to stay very focused and press because once you give them time they can hurt you.

'Discipline is also a huge factor because playing a man down against Barcelona is very difficult. There is a fine line because we have to be disciplined but we have to tackle and we have to close space.

'But we have a pretty good discipline in our team and a pretty good record against Barcelona and we have to take confidence from that. We have to use the strengths we have as a team and keeping 11 players on the pitch is absolutely crucial.'

To back up that view, Chelsea's match-by-match record against Barça improves considerably if matches when we ended with 10 men are omitted. Another sequence Lampard considers one belonging to Lionel Messi.

'Every time you turn the TV on you seen Messi scoring two goals standard at the moment, and it is good that he hasn't scored against us. We pride ourselves in being a strong team and when we played Barcelona before we have caused them difficulties, but when you talk about Messi, statistics go out the window the way he is playing. It is about us performing in these two games to try to stop him.'

Lampard considers our away-goals exit against tomorrow's opposition three years ago as vying strongly for his worst moment in football and needless to say, finding motivation in this rematch is not a problem.

'Every year you get a bit older and you realise that semi-finals won't be there forever. It makes you more determined and excited about the game coming up. It is a huge occasion to play a semi-final and we are playing against the top team in world football recently. What better challenge to take on as a team. The players and the club remain as determined as ever to win the Champions League.'