Frank Lampard knows better than most the Chelsea versus Liverpool rivalry is a modern classic and is keen to ensure his players understand the fans’ passion for this fixture.
We host the Reds in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge this afternoon and a series of high-profile matches between the clubs during the Noughties ensured a fierce rivalry developed between the two sides, with Lampard on the pitch for the majority of them to help write some of the key chapters in the story.
Now our head coach, he still feels the passion associated with the fixture and knows that despite plenty of changes at both clubs in the last few years, these games are just as meaningful to the supporters as ever.
‘It was a rivalry and it does still resonate,’ explained Lampard. ‘At the time we were generally stronger in the league and we know they were a great team in the cups. We had our battles both ways, some successful for us, some not. Times have changed slightly, but it doesn’t change that feeling and I think both fans feel it, and I think the players need to feel it.
‘It’s a game that does involve a lot of passion whenever it’s played, and if your levels aren’t there as they should be it’s a game that can go away from you quickly, so my first thing to say to the players is “feel this game and recognise what it is”, because it always does have an edge.’
However, Lampard also knows that with passions running high, the chances of mistakes being made can also increase. Having suffered defeat in the Champions League in midweek following a momentary lapse in concentration while defending a free-kick, he is eager to ensure there won’t be a repeat at the Bridge today.
‘It’s hugely about how focused and concentrated we are,’ he said. ‘We have to learn a lesson, and Valencia taught us one in a game where we played okay, probably should have won the game not lost the game, but one second where we went to sleep cost us. But that’s the level where we’re at, that was an important lesson, and Liverpool can really hurt you in moments like that.’
Lampard also sees this match at Stamford Bridge as an opportunity for Tammy Abraham to once again show just how far he has come.
The young striker has announced his arrival in the Premier League with some prolific form in the early stages of this season, and our head coach feels another impressive performance against one of the best teams, and best defenders, in the world would demonstrate his ability even further.
‘It’s normal that the top strikers, they’re judged on goals, and then the next level of that is you’re judged on if you score goals against the big teams. I understand that because someone like Virgil van Dijk, a defence like Liverpool’s, a team like Liverpool, make it harder to create chances, so it’s what can you do individually to create them and how clinical can you be after that.
‘He’s shown great signs obviously this season, but it will be another test for him in a way. It’s not the be all and end all, we won’t all make judgements after this game, but for the big strikers, like Didier Drogba, we all remember the amount of times he scored in finals and semi-finals and really important games, and I think quite rightly players are judged on that stuff.’