With just seven points separating seven teams in the race for a top-four place in the Premier League, Frank Lampard expects his Chelsea side have a fight on their hands in order to secure Champions League qualification for next season but he is adamant his players are up to the job.
The boss believes the group have shown the right response in training since a difficult defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich on Tuesday night. However, he knows that competition is fierce and there are plenty of battles remaining between now and the end of the season, starting with our trip to Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference at Cobham, Lampard also discussed how VAR can improve in the Premier League and his goalkeeping situation, but he started by assessing the fight for a top-four finish.
‘When you look around us and you look at the form of Manchester United, they were already a strong outfit that bought very well last summer,’ he said. ‘They spent £150m on three very good signings and then had more players come in during the [January] window that have strengthened them so they look good.
‘It’s similar with Tottenham – in the last two windows, they’ve spent money and they’re a good team. I expected them to be in the race because they’re too good a team not to be in the race and the points in this league can change very quickly for different reasons.’
While United and Spurs may be our nearest challengers at this moment in time, Lampard is reluctant to write off any side in the top half of the table.
‘Teams like Arsenal, you can’t write off teams of that quality that are not that far behind you. Sheffield United and Wolves you have to respect because they’re really strong teams in their own way. There are lots in the competition so we have a fight but we also just have to worry about ourselves.’
Lampard was asked again about his goalkeeping situation…
‘My relationship is fine,’ he responded when questioned about Kepa Arrizabalaga ‘I have 20 or so players to keep happy but I can’t keep them all happy at the same time so all I expect is professionalism in training, which Kepa has shown.
‘Every player is in control of their own destiny with how they train and how they turn up every day. Kepa is training well but so is Willy Caballero, who’s also been playing pretty well and made some really good saves against Bayern Munich. I have competition there so I will decide as we go.’
The boss also assessed how VAR can improve in the Premier League…
‘My view is the referee should have gone to look at the [Harry] Maguire incident against Manchester United and then I think he’d have given a red card. Against Tottenham, he didn’t need to look at it because it was very clear for VAR but they got it wrong.
‘We should be looking at the monitors more. We know VAR needs some form of change because I don’t think anybody is particularly happy with it. Maybe that’s understandable in year one in the Premier League so we have to look at the areas where we can improve it and going to the monitor is certainly one.
'We’ve been on the end of two incidents where one possibly, probably affected the result and one didn’t but could have done as well.’
Lampard finished by indicating the reaction from the Bayern defeat he expects from his players tomorrow…
‘The response will be what we see tomorrow. The lads have been fine in training, they looked determined this morning. Things like this happen in football – there are moments and games where it’s tough and it opens your eyes somewhat but the tester is how you come back from that individually and collectively.
‘I’m interested to see the reaction; it feels like it will be good. Our last Premier League performance was very, very good so we have to carry on from that.’