The Blues will be without N’Golo Kante once again for tomorrow’s trip to Anfield, a game Frank Lampard is expecting to be full of challenges despite Liverpool’s drop-off in results since being crowned Premier League champions.
The team news was provided in an update from Lampard at the manager’s video press conference to preview our penultimate game of this interrupted Premier League campaign.
We take on Jurgen Klopp’s side on Wednesday evening, kick-off 8.15pm, with a win able to secure Champions League football next season.
‘N’Golo is not fit,’ revealed the boss. ‘He’s not ready for this game.’
Despite having dropped points against Manchester City, Burnley and Arsenal since our victory over City handed them the title last month, Lampard is preparing to face a full-strength team fully firing and eager to put on a show on the night they finally get their hands on the Premier League trophy.
‘It does change the face of it,’ admitted Lampard, speaking from experience as a three-time Premier League winner himself.
‘Liverpool have had an incredible campaign and maybe it’s normal sometimes when you succeed and get over the line like they have in such great fashion that there can be a small dip, which they’ve had a little bit in results because they were virtually unbeatable for a big period.
‘I don’t consider that though. I only consider the strong Liverpool that we’ve seen for big parts of the season, that’s the Liverpool I expect.’
Lampard was asked whether his side will give the champions a guard of honour.
‘I’m very happy to give a guard of honour for a team that deserve it, having won the league in such style as well. We go there with huge respect.
‘We’re competitive here but you have to understand when a team has won the league well and we’ll handle that in the right way but focus on the game.’
In terms of bridging the gap on the teams above us, Frank knows there is a lot of work to do.
‘We have a long way to go and we have to be realistic about that as a club, as do many of the other clubs because Liverpool and Manchester City have shown an incredible consistency that only comes through hard work and with fantastic players and fantastic coaching.
‘We’re at a different point in the curve and we have to respect that and work towards it. The points don’t lie over the last few seasons but we have to have some strong targets and we want to close that gap.’
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s recent form was also put forward as a subject of discussion.
‘I’ve spoken about Callum a lot and he needs to keep training at the highest level, which is what I’ve seen him doing particularly in the last week or 10 days. In the two games he’s come on, he’s had good impacts and that’s the way he needs to continue.
‘He’s a young player with great talent and potential and I want to see that potential come through.’
Lampard did not want to talk about transfer rumours but did explain how he has been relaying his vision for the future to the new signings who have come in.
‘If I work for this club, I want to get the best out of the group that I have and if we’re looking at bringing in players and there’s a chance to speak to them, you just want to speak about the vision and what you want for the club.
‘When I get the opportunity to do that, I’ll hopefully do it with a lot of passion and feeling and an idea of what I want. I remember being a player and having certain conversations like that with different managers or people in football and it’s an important thing.
‘As a player you want to join something that’s going somewhere and that’s the only way I will speak to players either that I get the opportunity to speak to or my own players. We all have to feel that the vision and the idea of playing for Chelsea is a really positive one and my job sometimes is to say that.’
The target of Champions League qualification will be settled in the next five days and Lampard admitted it was his number one priority at the season start.
‘We have to say it was the number one goal at the start of the season because it’s the competition that’s right in front of you at the start and the competition that you have to produce the most consistency in, which generally means the top teams come to the top.
‘It’s a gauge of where you are as a club and it’s about the prestige of wanting to stay in the Champions League. We’ve done it a lot over the last 10 or 15 years at Chelsea. This year was probably the most testing time to try and be in there so if we do, I’ll be happy.
‘Does it mean we’ll be challenging for the league next year? No. It just means we’ve made a really good step this year, if we get there, and then we have to work out how we bridge that gap because it still remains a lot of points.’