Frank Lampard won’t be able to call upon Fikayo Tomori for tomorrow’s Champions League fixture against Lille, but the boss is delighted to be able to welcome another centre-back, Toni Rudiger, back into the fold.
The German has played just 45 minutes under Lampard, the first half of our win against Wolves in September, but the boss confirmed he will be in the squad that takes on Lille at Stamford Bridge.
‘It’s good to have him back,’ Lampard told the assembled media at his press conference today. ‘He’s been training really well. He’s got a lot of his fitness work done, his injury has healed.
‘It will potentially be difficult for him [to return after a long time out], but our guard against that was to give him a lot of work. We have managed to create some things behind the scenes here in training that look like matchplay, and some pure running as well. He has come through all that.
‘You can only speak as you look at him, and he looks fit and ready to go, and I know he’s hungry. In terms of building him up, rightly so, he’s a good defender. People maybe overlook the fact we started the season with five big players all injured for a period of time. You do miss those individuals, so let’s see what he can add to us.’
Tomori and Olivier Giroud missed training today and Lampard confirmed they won’t be able to play tomorrow, explaining precisely what was wrong with the young English defender.
‘He’s got a tiny strain around his hip area, and it’s been bothering him for a little bit, so he’s taken out of it for a few days.’
Champions League opportunity
Regarding the fitness of his squad as a whole in the typically busy month of December, Lampard said the players were doing okay, adding he is pleased we are playing another game so soon after the disappointment of Saturday.
It is a massive one, too, as victory against the French side would guarantee our place in the Champions League last 16.
‘It would be a good achievement,’ assessed Lampard. ‘There are expectations we that would get through the group, I get that, but it was a tough group. The slightly young feel to our team, the fact we lost the first game, the few difficulties we have had, I think we have dealt with them very well to get into this position. There is still work to be done so we have to go out to win the game.
‘There are opportunities now for the team, particularly the young boys, to make a mark. It’s good. I like the pressure of this game being knockout. If we’re going to do anything good here, we’re going to have to have lots of these nights.
‘They’re crucial for the players because you can be defined as an individual and as a group by success. This means going into the next stage of the Champions League which is a place we want to be in, and another platform for the players to play.’
Finally, Lampard analysed our home form, which has at times been in contrast to our performances on the road this season. We didn’t beat Valencia or Ajax at the Bridge in this competition, and the boss considered what we need to do to change that stat when Lille come to town.
‘Quite a lot of it has been chance conversion. Away from home we’ve wrapped up some goals and some really good performances. When you score early in the game at Burnley for instance, or Watford, it changes the face of the game.
‘When you’re playing relatively well at home but don’t score for 45 minutes, which has been our problem in a lot of games, you add the pressure on yourself. We need to take our chances, especially ones that come early in the game. If you’ve got pressure, you need to convert it.’