In the past couple of days, significant steps have been taken towards the resumption of Chelsea’s season, three months after the last game we played.
On Friday, the fixture dates for the first three Premier League games following the resumption were announced, plus the rescheduling of our FA Cup quarter-final. Then yesterday the players were inside Stamford Bridge for the first time since the lockdown, for an in-house game as part of the training ramp-up towards competitive action once again.
Shortly after that session had finished, Frank Lampard spoke to the official Chelsea website to give his first reaction to how the new fixture list is looking, and to report on how his squad’s preparations are progressing.
Having had time to digest the dates of the forthcoming games, he had this to say:
‘We’re all excited. We were waiting to see when the games would be. I had presumed they would be in the same order, but the Manchester City game [which had been postponed due to the FA Cup quarter-finals] was of interest, where that was going to go.
‘It’s an extra game in week one, but more than anything we’re just excited to have confirmation of the dates. We’ve been waiting for a date to work towards in terms of how we’re working in pre-season, so we are particularly happy to get the first date of the Aston Villa game. Then we know the games are coming pretty quickly after that. It’s important we get our preparation right.’
Lampard on Chelsea's first fixtures
With Aston Villa away due to be our first game back, followed four days later by our hosting of Manchester City at home, we start by facing a team second from bottom in the table and battling relegation, and the team second from top.
‘With so much time off, and so much time to sit and scrutinise the table and your positions, for everyone there is going to be so much spotlight on this,’ Lampard observes. ‘Every game now in the nine league games is going to have something on it for different reasons. The first two games are good examples of that. Villa are fighting for their lives, City have huge quality, we know that. It’s a difficult start and we’ll need to be ready.’
Lampard on behind-closed-doors-games
It goes without saying that the remainder of the 2019/20 season is going to be very different from the normal for the boss and his players, with it confirmed there will be no fans inside the stadiums.
‘In football terms you prepare pretty much the same,’ Lampard points out.
‘There will definitely be different variables around the game now. We’ll have to try to make sure we prepare as well as we can in terms of being ready for the change in atmosphere. We’ve had discussions about that with the players. It will be different for everyone.
‘It may change the pace of the game, it might change the slight tone of it. We’ve seen that slightly in Germany and we need to be ready to adapt to that. All we can do really is get ourselves as fit as possible. That’s been a difficult task in the short term, to get fit when we’re used to longer pre-seasons.
‘We have worked hard on that, and when it comes to match days we’ll have to make sure we’re very ready for the changes from the norm, and make sure it doesn’t affect our performance on the pitch.’
For the behind-closed-doors reason, yesterday’s game in an empty Stamford Bridge was more accurate preparation than a training game would usually be and it came at the end of the first 10 days of Phase Two training with contact allowed.
Lampard on Phase Two training
‘The transition from non-contact to contact was good, reports Lampard. ‘It had to happen. The players were excited to get in the big groups and train with contact. It has allowed us to work at a level that is much more relevant to match play.
‘We are getting there. We have another two weeks to go. Normally we would have more time than that but we know what it is. The players have worked very hard in training when asked to, to try to bridge the gap a bit quicker than we normally would do. As coaching staff and medically we have to have the balance right to make sure we don’t push too much.
‘There have been challenges along the way, but that’s what football is. The players are getting fitter and we hope come Aston Villa we will be ready to go, with the mindset and the physical side of it to take on the games which are going to come thick and fast.’