Frank Lampard knows all about coming to Valencia and getting a big result, and the boss is under no illusions that Chelsea’s latest trip to the Mestalla is one his team cannot afford to lose.
Lampard won twice here as a Blue in 2007, including a last-gasp quarter-final triumph that ranks among our greatest nights in the Champions League. Shortly after touching down in Spain on Tuesday evening, the boss addressed local and travelling UK media at the Mestalla and previewed a potentially decisive Group H encounter for the current crop of Chelsea players.
‘It’s a must-not-lose game,’ said Lampard, who knows his team will advance with a win and still have qualification in their hands if it’s a draw.
‘We lost ground in the first game against Valencia, we have made up a lot of that ground, but I always thought it would be a tight group. It’s meant we have had to go to two difficult stadiums against two difficult teams and win.
‘It doesn’t mean we’re out if we lose, but it puts us in a very difficult position. What we have done is bring that kind of knockout football slightly earlier in the competition. That’s no big problem. The reality is at this level you will come to this conundrum at some point where it will be like this.
‘Work remains to be done and another challenge is in front of us.’
Lampard reflected on the 1-0 loss to Valencia back in September
‘I felt we were the better team. My major feeling after the first game is the lesson that will always be there, whether you’re 18 or 32, is that if you sleep for one moment at Champions League level you can lose a game.
‘We will have to take every bit of concentration and focus into this game. The rules always remain the same, particularly when you’re travelling in the Champions League, particularly when you come to a stadium like this which is a fantastic stadium to play football, but can be a very difficult one when you’re the opposition coming here.’
Lampard said he has watched a lot of Valencia matches in La Liga as well as the Champions League
‘I expect a very organised team, a team with quality in attacking areas, the two strikers and the wide players they have. My feeling having played at this stadium, it’s not just this team, it’s the support and the atmosphere when they come together and they’re playing well, it’s a difficult game for everybody. I expect a difficult match.
‘Champions League games can be a battle in midfield, they can be tight, they can be difficult, but you have to be clinical in both boxes, particularly when there is so much at stake and the match is tight.’
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Toni Rudiger haven’t travelled but Lampard had good news on them
‘Callum Hudson-Odoi is not available. He has been getting better through the week so hopefully he will be for the weekend.
‘Toni Rudiger thankfully now we’re talking match fitness as opposed to the injury itself. He is training hard and it will be more days and weeks as opposed to months as it has been.’
Lampard also commented on Ross Barkley, another who has not made the trip and has been in the news recently
‘There are two separate issues. One is the headlines this week. Ross knows how I felt about the first headline. I backed him then, and I still back him now.
‘He showed a moment of a lack of professionalism as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want to be a pure dictator and come down hard, because I understand all my players are humans and have lives. It’s not a terrible thing he’s done.
‘All Ross needs to do now, he’s had an injury which he is still kind of carrying, he has to work his way back in. He has to train well and I certainly don’t hold anything against my players. I like Ross, and I think it is something where he needs to show all his reactions on the pitch.’