Frank Lampard believes his Chelsea side must be at their best to beat Manchester City but he has full confidence in the players to meet the challenge head-on.
The boss was back in the media room at Cobham speaking to reporters via a Zoom call on his laptop to preview our Premier League meeting with Pep Guardiola’s side tomorrow.
It will be the first competitive game at Stamford Bridge in 109 days and follows on quickly from our weekend win at Aston Villa. City have been in action even more recently, thumping Burnley 5-0 on Monday night, and are currently 12 points ahead of the Blues in third place.
As well as discussing his plans to bridge that gap next season and the shorter-term objective of beating City in this upcoming clash, Lampard addressed transfer speculation on Kai Havertz and the race for Champions League qualification. However, he started by providing a fitness update on his squad.
‘We’re all the same as we were for Aston Villa,’ he reported. ‘Fikayo Tomori is still probably about a week away from training properly with us and Callum Hudson-Odoi is still searching for fitness. He’s fit but not match fit yet.’
The rest of the players are fit and available then for what promises to be an intriguing clash with the (still just about) reigning champions of England and Lampard is looking for his players to take the opportunity to prove themselves against a side that have impressed since the restart.
‘When you play against City, there are benchmarks for you,’ he explained. ‘We have to say as a club like Chelsea that we want to be at that level - competing for first and competing in cup competitions.
‘In recent seasons, we have been there a lot but at the moment we know we’re in a slightly different situation. We want to close that gap so when you go head to head, it’s a great opportunity for the players.
‘We have a job to do and our job is to go up against one of the best teams in the world over the last few seasons and try to get a result.’
The reverse fixture in Manchester was a tight contest back in November which the hosts edged 2-1.
‘When you play a team of Man City’s level, you can play like we did in that game where we matched them in general play but if you have a couple of moments where you switch off they constantly will have individuals and a way of playing that gives you problems.
‘We’ll have to be at our best. We have to take our chances when we get them because we had some up there that we didn’t take and we also have to be very vigilant about how we defend. The work ethic of the team in a defensive nature has to be huge to try and stop them playing.
‘It’s a huge challenge. We know that every time we play City but we have to believe in ourselves, be confident and give it our best because if we do then I have belief in this team that they can go up against anybody.’
Reflecting on the Villa game, Lampard was happy with our character.
‘We had really good control throughout and the goal was against the run of play. We had to carry on doing what we were doing and we were able to do that and got our goal. It was a nice little pointer for us in terms of a bit of character and resilience in the team.
‘We can definitely eradicate some of the errors that led us to being a goal down. We’ve seen a little bit of what we expected to see in terms of tempo and some teams tiring or not firing on all cylinders. I don’t think we are quite yet so we need to try and get to that level as soon as possible.’
Prior to City’s last game, a banner was flown over the Etihad with the words ‘White Lives Matter Burnley’ and Lampard responded to a question about that.
‘We were all disappointed with the banner. One of the really positive things about the movement that’s happening is the togetherness that the players, clubs and everyone involved is showing to try and move forward.
‘It was a small step back but reaction has been another positive move and everybody has reacted in the same way. We must keep moving forward. Every day you’re seeing clubs and players come together and that’s a great thing. That’s what this is all about, being together and moving forward. We have some work to do and we’ll all keep doing that.’
Lampard was also asked about transfer speculation regarding Kai Havertz.
‘He’s obviously a top player but to follow on from my answer before, I’m certainly not going to comment on other players at other teams and it cannot be our focus. No bids have gone in.
‘We have the games that we need to complete before the window opens so that’s something we’ll broach when it comes round. At the minute our only focus can be on the games in hand.’
The boss finished by assessing the battle for Champions League qualification as things stand.
‘We look above us, we look below us and we try to amass as many points as we can. Leicester have been fantastic this season and the fact we’re three points off them is something we can be aware of and set our sights on but we also have our own tough games in front of us.
‘I’m not focusing on Leicester, Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United, Tottenham or any other team. We have to just focus on ourselves.’
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