LAMPARD: FRESH APPROACH
Frank Lampard is currently in the middle of his 12th pre-season at Chelsea - plenty of cause to label him an expert on this part of the football calendar.
In the wake of the narrow defeat against the MLS All-Stars and with a match against notable opponents in AC Milan fast approaching, the vice-captain was able to speak about how games like the one in Philadelphia on Wednesday should be regarded, and about new midfielders who have joined him in the squad this season.
'Every game is like a stepping stone for us when we are building fitness,' Lampard said.
'When we go back we still have another two to three weeks until our season starts and now is the time when we are trying to get that little bit quicker and build a bit of stamina.
'It is not easy when you have a break, a lot of our players played in the Euros and we have some new players to integrate as well, and there are good signs for us as we move on towards the new season.'
Lampard was disappointed to lose against the All-Stars, especially as he had put Chelsea in a winning position with his goal in the second half, but acknowledges it came against a select team from an improving league and was just the type of test the players needed.
'American teams always have a very good team ethic, they worked very hard and the American national team always does that against England. We weren't expecting anything less,' he said.
'In pre-season you don't want to overdo your work in the first couple of weeks because that can lead to injuries and it is a fine balancing act to get people fit at the right time. Fernando Torres came back three days ago, others have come back five or six days ago, some have been back a couple of weeks. We are not ready yet but by the time we leave America and have another week's training we will be ready for the start of the season.
'Personally I had a long break, missing the Euros was disappointing but it gave me the chance to rest and come back with all guns blazing.'
As well as fitness, familiarity is being worked upon and playing directly ahead of Lampard for the start of the last two games have been, in turn, Eden Hazard and Marko Marin, both summer additions.
'My first impressions of Hazard are very good,' reported Lampard. 'You can see he is a natural in training with his touch, his awareness, his speed and the first time I saw him play in Seattle I could see he is player with a lot of natural ability. There are signs he can be a big player in Chelsea history if he wants to be.
'Marin is very enjoyable to play with. I have only played with him once or twice and he picks up great positions on the pitch and is very sharp. He is the kind of creative player we want at Chelsea to excite the fans.
'And all the reports I have heard of Oscar are very good too and hopefully he can come and adapt to the English game very quickly. We have a few midfielders now who can play in areas where we can hurt the other teams, we have Juan Mata to come back as well, so the future looks good for us.'
The 34-year-old may be playing a deeper role in midfield than at times in his career but with Michael Essien, John Mikel Obi, Josh McEachran, Oriol Romeu, Ramires, Raul Meireles, Yossi Benayoun and Kevin De Bruyne also in the squad and all capable of playing midfield, plus Lucas Piazon given chances during the US tour, there is certainly no shortage of competition for places in that part of the pitch, but Lampard is relishing it.
'Every year it gets harder because every year we bring in players, but I remember being 25 and we brought in four or five midfielders one summer. I wondered if I would be in the team and I played about 60 games.
'I have had a great career here and I wouldn't want the club to stand still. The club needs to move forward and bringing in quality midfield players is brilliant.'
On Thursday evening Lampard joined all the recent arrivals in training at the Sun Life Stadium, home to the Miami Dolphins NFL side and venue for Saturday's game against AC Milan. The grass surface was universally admired by all and should prove perfect for our midfielders to show their abilities to the full.
>>Tickets for the match in Miami are still available.
The match is live on Chelsea TV.